Windsor’s latest local film instalment, Softballs, opened recently at Lakeshore Cinemas, selling out eight screenings and rising audiences to their feet. While it misses the heart and story development of its genre counterparts, Softballs is a funny and energetic debut.
The ambitious, feature-length mockumentary was produced and directed by Steve Shilson, Matt O’Neil and Ryan St. Pierre. Written by O’Neil, but featuring plenty of improv humour, Softballs was made with little money and stars a bunch of average guys— at least one, I’m sure, you probably have on your Facebook.
The premise: An Essex County men’s slow-pitch team called the Maidstone Sluggers are hoping to win their first league championship. The amateur team, formed by team captain and manager Bret (James Keller) in 2006, has yet to win a championship. After another unsuccessful season, player Richard (Mike D’Amore) orchestrates a plan to replace Bret with the captain’s brother, Brody (Kyle Flood).
The film spends some time introducing the softball players, and what a humourous, albeit predictable, bunch they are. There’s a reformed alcoholic pro baller turned born-again Christian, a mentally challenged water boy and two friends who can’t stay off the juice— and I don’t mean apple— to name a few.
Many of the individual scenes are funny— the ones featuring questionably gay BFFs Norman and Evan are particularly good. Local references such as the Dairy Freeze and garage drinking parties (I think it’s a Belle River thing) are fun to catch. But if the Maidstone Sluggers are anything like a real softball team, I might be staying out of the county.
I’m all for eccentric characters and raunchy humour— think more clever mockumentaries such as Fubar and This is Spinal Tap— but Softballs ends up being a little too much like Trailer Park Boys. These recreational softballers are depicted as all being hotheaded, jealous, emotional, sexist and self-absorbed. While the characters are stereotypical and the plot basic, watching this screwy team actually try and obtain a meaningless championship is part of the fun.
The fact that three young Windsor filmmakers were able to pull off a 90-minute movie with non actors and edit it on a laptop using Adobe Premiere is pretty crazy. I don’t suspect the Toronto International Film Festival to be calling soon, but these resourceful lads may be ones to watch.