A movie about a Yeshiva which decides to field a college level baseball team from among its students studying to be rabbis? Filmed in Utah with a mostly Mormon cast? Yeah, I'll be there!
Our friends invited us to a Saturday night showing of The Yankles, a 2009 film never theatrically released, but available on DVD, at Temple Shalom. My family was one of the founding members of the congregation, but I'd left town in 1972 and hadn't been there in ten years.
I can report that watching The Yankles is an enjoyable experience; it's funny and warm, while managing to take both baseball and religion seriously, and making a point about their relative importance in the process. It's not a great movie and has some amateurish moments but you'll feel better for having seen it.
The plot is straight forward. A former major leaguer, Charlie Jones, ruined his career with three DUI's, the last of which lands him in jail for 18 months. When released, he can't find a job with his old contacts and needs to perform community service as part of his parole. Deborah, his Jewish former girlfriend, rediscovers her roots in his absence and has become devoutly Orthodox. Her brother, a former minor leaguer, is now at the Yeshiva, studying to be a rabbi when his Rebbe decides to start the baseball team. Charlie, desperate to reconnect with Deborah, ends up as their coach and complications ensue.
The leads are solid and believable; Brian Wimmer at Charlie and Susanne Sutchy as Deborah, (and married in real life). Don Most (Ralph from Happy Days!), plays Susanne's estranged Dad. In the smaller roles, I particularly enjoyed Kenneth F Brown as Rabbi Meyer, Charlie's assistant coach, and Jesse Bennett as The Rebbe.