I’m generally a sucker for a good sports drama based on an “incredible true story” (as the poster says). But there’s something about The Hill that just falls flat, despite the presence of Dennis Quaid who starred in one of my favorite heartwarming sports dramas, The Rookie (2002), also based on a true story. In The Hill, Quaid plays James Hill, a stern preacher in a small, impoverished town in Texas who refuses to support his young son Rickey’s ambitions to be a major league ballplayer. James has his reasons for skepticism. In his own way, he’s trying to protect Rickey: while the boy can certainly hit, the odds of success are stacked against him. Rickey has a degenerative spinal disease and wears leg braces. He has enough trouble walking let alone chasing a field of dreams. But if he didn’t at least try, there wouldn’t be a movie.
The recent Blind Side controversy doesn’t do this film any favors as it casts a shadow of doubt on Hollywood’s retelling of any fact-based narrative, no matter how inspiring it might be at its core. And Rickey’s story is inspiring. He pursues his passion even though it puts a strain on his relationship with his father and quite literally, puts his life and limbs at risk. He goes for it and… well, stuff happens. Some good, some bad. Some great.
The PG-rated film feels better suited for a faith-based movie niche on cable rather than the big screen. The acting is inconsistent throughout and except for maybe the dad (Quaid), the character arcs are never fully realized. The women are the ones with the most sense and backbone– the mom, the grandma, the girlfriend– but they are relegated to small roles as Ricky’s biggest cheerleaders.
The Hill produces a few misty-eye moments toward the end but overall, as inspirational sports dramas go, I’d call it a swing and a miss.