|DVD Romantic Drama|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 23 November 1999|
Movies just don’t come much more innocuous than ‘Stealing Home.’ This is rather peculiar when one considers that the script, by writers/directors Steven Kampmann & Will Aldis, includes such provocative developments as loss of virginity, incapacitating despair, fatal accidents and suicide. The attempt seems to be to create a tale of coming of age and healing nostalgia, with the emphasis on recovery rather than the wounds, but the effect is pretty tame.
The film jumps back and forth in time. Billy Wyatt (Mark Harmon as an adult, William McNamara as a teenager in flashbacks) is a baseball player who has given up the game and almost given up on life. He is summoned home by the news that Katie (Jodie Foster), his onetime babysitter, first crush, counselor and true friend, has killed herself, leaving instructions for Billy to dispose of her ashes. Billy hasn’t seen Katie in years, but now he recalls the ways in which she affected his life in the ‘60s and tries to pull himself back together in the present.
Although it was made in 1988, ‘Stealing Home’ feels very much like an early ‘70s film, when its mixture of humor and drama would have seemed daring. It seems to be a sort of homage to ‘Summer of ’42’ (even the age difference between the main characters is almost the same). The comedy is a bit forced in places - a scene of the grown Billy waking up his friends’ parents to find an old baseball uniform is downright cartoonish - and not especially original, though it’s generally pleasant. The tragedies, meanwhile, are understated to the point of being muted. There is some talk of Katie being unhappy, but there’s little exploration of why she has taken her life. She’s presented as someone who knows better what’s good for others than what’s good for herself, but the film doesn’t have many insights into her psyche. Billy is also painted in broad strokes, without a particularly clear view as to why he’s so unresilient. Because ‘Stealing Home’ wants to end on an upbeat note, it never ventures far into emotional darkness, so it winds up playing mostly neutral.
Foster does right by the daredevil nurturer Katie and McNamara is fine as Billy’s younger incarnation. Harmon is decent as the grown Billy, though he’s not given a lot to work with. Jonathan Silverman is lively as the teenaged incarnation of Billy’s best male friend and Helen Hunt has a cameo as Billy’s grown sister.
The sound on the DVD is fairly good but a bit erratic. Chapter 1 has some pretty guitar and piano arpeggios on the soundtrack with a nice bass fill under the opening credits. Chapter 2 has realistic p.a. feedback as Harmon solos into the microphone at an empty ballpark, but it goes a trifle fuzzy when the sequence segues to a full ballpark. Since the accompanying voiceover is clean, perhaps the slight distortion is intentional. Jerry Lee Lewis’ recording of "Great Balls of Fire" gives off an LP-turntable sound in Chapter 3. Contributions by Bo Diddley, the Shirelles and the Nylons also show up on the soundtrack, livening up various scenes. In Chapter 22, we are treated to a clear rendition of the film’s ultra-‘80s big ballad, ‘When She Danced.’ There’s a mildly jarring sound transition from Chapter 26 to Chapter 27, as dialogue between Harmon’s Billy and his friend (Harold Ramis) moves from one shot to another during a conversation. Chapter 30 and the end credits in Chapter 32 pump the volume up notably higher than it’s been during the rest of the film.
‘Stealing Home’ isn’t a bad film, exactly; it’s just very bland.