MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: -3

Overwhelmed by debt and chased by creditors, people will do almost anything, especially when those creditors happen to be bookies. That’s the case for compulsive gambler Connor O’Neill (Keanu Reeves) who, due to a recent bet, owes two different men a total of $11,000. Desperate for money, he begs a friend for cash, who agrees to pay. However, the condition is that Connor coaches a little league baseball team, which happens to be located in a low-income area of Chicago. Connor agrees, and quickly builds a rapport with the kids. But because he’s so consumed with his troubles, he can’t see the connection, even when the boys’ concerned teacher, Mrs. Wilkes (Diane Lane), tries to clue him in. Neither the team nor Connor realizes the profound impact each will have on the other. Based on a true story, HARDBALL tells an inspirational story that tends toward overt manipulation as it tries to pull viewer heartstrings.

Connor is clearly addicted to gambling and, like those of any addiction, the effects are frustrating to watch. Due to his overwhelming debt, he is unwillingly forced to coach the team. But the experience teaches him an important lesson in perseverance, or as one character in the film calls it, ‘showing up.’ Other lessons hinted at include playing fair and putting academics above sports and other extra-curricular activities. However, while Connor’s gambling addiction is portrayed negatively and strong positive themes abound, the film suffers a significant penalty from the amount of foul language, particularly spoken by the children. The young boys on the team are terrific actors, although there’s been quite a bit of controversy regarding their portrayal. While not all of them have foul mouths, a few can’t get a sentence out without an s-word or some moderate crudity. And in a couple of scenes, one kid even uses the f-word. This objectionable language coming from the youngsters is at least one reason prompting the team’s real-life coach to crusade against this film’s release unless changes are made. All told, the 38 obscenities, including 3 f-words, sets a poor example for the teen crowd that should be inspired by the PG-13 rated HARDBALL.

Preview Reviewer: John Adair
Paramount Pictures, 5555 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (38) times - Mild 16, moderate 22

Obscene Language: Many (42) times - F-word 3, s-word 35, other 4

Profanity: Several (7) times – Regular 5 (G 2, Swear to G, OJ 2); exclamatory 2 (OG, OMG)

Violence: Several times – Moderate (man beaten up and punched, puts hand and head through glass, thrown against wall, kids fighting, hit in head with door, kid hit in head, person shot)

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Few times (reference to self-gratification, comment about receiving unconventional sex)

Drugs: Many (cigarette smoking, alcohol)

Other: People encouraged to let feelings guide decisions; man has Roman Catholic background, but not faithful to church; theme of persevering through trials; negative aspect of gambling

Running Time: 115 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.