The Yankles Blu-ray Review
Usually when small indie films that I’ve never heard of come my way, I internally groan. However, sometimes I get surprised at a good film and every now and again, I strike gold with one of the best of the year. Upon hearing the title THE YANKLES, I was dismissive. But looking at the cover box of a funny looking Jewish, orthodox yeshiva baseball team with the tag line “In The Big Inning…,” my interest sparked as I laughed at the absurd image.
But rather than soley focussing on the unique aspect of the Jewish college team, the film puts the story together in predictable run of the mill fashion. Washed up alcoholic ex major league ballplayer Charlie Jones (Brian Wimmer) is released from prison after several DUI charges. Required to continue doing social work outside of prison, he accepts a coaching job from the only group who will take him – a Jewish college for aspiring young Rabbi’s. One of the glaring problems is Charlie’s likability factor. Sure he is a reformed man, but his arc as a character and charisma as an actor, lacked the necessary elements for the audience to get behind his struggle as the leading man.
Another familiar subplot involves the team captain Elliot (Michael Buster), who also played professional ball but gave it up to pursue life in the ministry. His father, played by Happy Days’ Don Most, is unhappy with this decision and the two have a few too many oddly framed discussions about their rift. Far be it from me to explain rights and wrongs with directing choices, but their scenes in a lighted bar would suddenly go black as if on a stage with a spot light. These moments are taken way too seriously, trying a little too hard to achieve that after school special lesson when all they achieve is distraction.
What does tend work at times is the actual baseball team. Refusing to slide because of a personal conviction or picking up their Yamulke while running to third base, the Jewish team of player misfits at first learn most of their skills from a “how to” book. But their desire to represent their faith over winning is infectiously valiant. Using words of wisdom, the Rebbe (headmaster at the school) speaks truths that are applicable in everyone’s lives. And in these moments the film truly succeeds by not making fun of the Jewish faith but rather celebrating the differences.
THE YANKLES is sweet and good natured with a few laugh out loud moments like figuring out kosher curse words in Yiddish or an over the top Foghorn Leghorn type villain (although I’m not sure if that was on purpose). But for every humorous yet far too lengthy random break out in song moment, there were poorly developed dramatic moments and boring unbelievable baseball play, creating a very uneven tone. I honestly feel bad for not liking THE YANKLES, but there were too many missed opportunities for me to recommend.
Video: (1080p 2.35:1) A clean picture despite some odd lighting choices in THE YANKLES.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) Beside an echoey vacant sound in a short court room scene at the begininning, THE YANKLES has great sound quality.
Commentary With Co-Writer/Director David R. Brooks and Co-Writer/Producer Zev Brooks: They seem fairly eager and excited about THE YANKLES as they try to cram in every piece of information about the process they can. I can appreciate their passion for their film.
Deleted Scenes (16:06): About twelve deleted scenes that I’m guessing were cut because either the acting just wasn’t up to par or the writing was just too corny. A wise decision.
Extended Musical Scenes (10:38): This gives the full versions of the musical numbers in THE YANKLES.
Behind The Scenes (11:17): An extremely literal behind the scenes look at THE YANKLES, consisting of long camera shots of equipment and people milling around and the cast giving the director a present. This is completely worthless.
Yankles Baseball Cards: You can scroll through each of the characters baseball cards that give little details about the player and their position.