The Final Season (2007)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Drama, Americana, Rural Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 12, 2007 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The tiny town of Norway, IA, is such a sports-movie cliché that it might surprise viewers to learn that it actually exists. As The Final Season begins, the town's high school is the owner of 19 state baseball championships, and has turned out numerous professional ballplayers despite its extremely small population and limited resources. In the summer of 1991, the high school was closed, its students absorbed into the population of a larger high school in a neighboring town. The Final Season charts that push for a 20th and final state championship under a new, greenhorn coach (played by Sean Astin). Perhaps the school's simultaneous status as a David (it's about to be closed) and a Goliath (it has one of the most successful baseball programs in the country) is what makes The Final Season such an unsatisfying viewing experience. Or it could be that the movie is suffused with a poetic worship of the purity of the sport, the kind that made Field of Dreams (also set in Iowa) seem so magical, but that comes across as cloying in the lesser hands of director David Mickey Evans and writer Art D'Alessandro. Though the materials on hand are all fine and the movie is made with undeniable competence, it's ultimately too earnest and square to seem like a nuanced consideration of its subject matter. Astin shows heart and pluck as the coach, and Powers Boothe has plenty of seasoned gravitas as Astin's mentor, whom Astin succeeds for political reasons, to ease the transition toward the end of the Norway program. But it's Rachael Leigh Cook's character, the requisite love interest for Astin, who best represents the typical mode of this film -- she's there only to fill out the standard elements of a predictable script.