Starting off as an innocuous, passably engaging take on the coming-of-age baseball tale, director Gary Lundgren’s Calvin Marshall eventually falls flat in its heavy-handed efforts to score an emotional homerun, as the would-be, handsomely persistent baseball player Calvin Marshall (Alex Frost) lies his way to a girl’s heart. Even after failingly trying out for the Bayford Bisons for the past three years, Calvin can’t shake his dream of playing baseball professionally, which is further spurred on by a personal cheering team consisting of his aunt and guardian, June Marshall (Jane Adams), and her boyfriend, Ernie (Andrew Wilson)—as well as by the memory of his deceased mother. In an attempt to distract Calvin from hanging around the dugout, Coach Little (Steve Zahn) tactfully orders him to announce women’s volleyball games, resulting in Calvin becoming enamored with the star volleyball player, Tori (Michelle Lombardo).
From major league dreams to a subplot involving cancer (and a karmic moral predicament that has Calvin faking his team membership to impress Tori), this indie misfire is more of a baseball rendition of Friday Night Lights, minus the acute insight. Frost fits the role of the all-American, slightly clueless baseball-hopeful Calvin with buoyant aplomb, but the film’s faint strengths rest mainly in Zahn’s performance as a failed pro but now-perpetually drunk coach and the brief appearances of the effervescent scene-stealer Adams; both bring expressive heft to the film’s otherwise lackluster, and predictable, approach to narrative.
Calvin Marhsall, a film containing broadly humorous bits that relegate its characters to cartoons than fully whole beings, half-heartedly plods along in its final half to an irrelevant conclusion, as we’re left wondering if we actually give a shit about any of these thinly etched characters at all. Lundgren aims for the heartfelt, folksy mood of the small-town indie Tully; but with such a soapy, and clunky, story, and with such melodramatic encounters as Calvin awkwardly catching Coach Little and Tori on the baseball field one evening, the loose feel and soulful quality the director hopes to achieve never take shape.