Movie News & Reviews

'Calvin Marshall' defies genres

Cynthia Watros and Steve Zahn star in "Calvin Marshall." The film follows a baseball player who isn't very good at the sport.  (Courtesy of Patrick Neary)
Cynthia Watros and Steve Zahn star in "Calvin Marshall." The film follows a baseball player who isn't very good at the sport. (Courtesy of Patrick Neary) COURTESY OF PATRICK NEARY

He's one of the most dedicated baseball players to walk on a field. He's also one of the most delusional.

“Calvin Marshall” scores a win even if Calvin Marshall the man doesn’t in this unlikely coming of age drama-comedy.

Alex Frost plays the title character, a 21-year-old trying out for the third time for the Bayford City College Bisons while dreaming of making it to the major leagues. He’s eager, earnest and hard working. Trouble is, he also is a really lousy ball player. And everyone knows it. Except Calvin.

He gets up before dawn to practice, studies the careers of early baseball pioneers, and gladly accepts the abuse of his coach. He’s supported by fellow players, family and friends. But none of them have the will to tell Calvin just how truly awful at baseball he is.

Steve Zahn (HBO’s “Treme”) plays Doug Little, the team’s hard-drinking, womanizing coach. He owns the movie whenever he’s on the screen. Projecting a tough-guy image (“You’re scrawny, weak and unremarkable” is a typical pep talk), Coach Little hides a heart that’s soft as mush. Zahn builds a complex character that is alternately comedic, inspiring and pathetic.

Michelle Lombardo plays Calvin’s love interest, Tori, a star athlete on the school’s volleyball team. She could have gone on to play at any number of big schools but stayed home to care for her ill mother. Calvin approaches her much like he approaches the game: with a boundless confidence.

Frost’s performance could have easily gone cartoonish, but he artfully keeps it reined in as Calvin’s veil of naiveté is harshly pulled away.

Writer and director Gary Lundgren has crafted a movie that explores that moment of course correction when youthful hopes and dreams meet the sober realities of adulthood.

Filmed at Medford’s Harry and David Field and Ashland locations, the film makes good use of its southern Oregon locales. With a simple but effective musical score and clean photography, the film moves at a leisurely pace to its climax.

“Calvin Marshall” is the underdog’s underdog movie, the anti “Karate Kid.” This is no come-from-behind story – at least on the field. But you’ll cheer for Calvin Marshall – the man and the movie – just the same.

'Calvin Marshall

*** 1/2 * I

Director: Gary Lundgren

Cast: Alex Frost, Michelle Lombardo, Steve Zahn, Jane Adams, Andrew Wilson, Diedrich Bader

Running time: 1:32

Rating: R; language, sexuality

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