Picks and Pans Review: The Comrades of Summer
HBO (Sat., July 11, 8 P.M. ET)
In this amusing baseball movie, Joe Mantegna stars as a cantankerous future Hall of Famer down on his luck. He reluctantly accepts an offer from the Russian Sports Ministry to come over and whip the Soviet team into shape for the '92 Olympics. (All right, the premise is dated: Filming was completed before the breakup of the U.S.S.R. But is HBO going to throw away a hunk of money just because of a fluky thing like world events?)
The movie begins as a spoof of big-bucks professional sports. (Sparky's career-ending injury happens while he's filming a car commercial.) It soon shifts to a culture-clash comedy.
The athletic action is markedly unconvincing. If none of the other actors can throw, at least the ones playing pitchers should toss a ball as well as the cast of A League of Their Own. Predictably the Soviet team goes from weenies to world beaters and Mantegna must find not only redemption but love—with Natalya (Little Vera) Negoda. But the movie is nicely paced by director Tommy Lee Wallace, and Mantegna is disarming.
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