In Norway Iowa (pop. 586) baseball is what you do by default—there apparently aren’t too many options. It is either baseball or gas-station get-togethers according to the (true) story in The Final Season. Set in 1991 the town’s high school baseball team the Tigers has amassed 19 State Championships in 22 years and it is the community’s heart and soul. So when a move is put in place to merge the team with another school’s for budgetary reasons the townsfolk are understandably outraged. As a nail in the coffin the team’s longtime coach Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe) is to be replaced by his much-younger and -less-experienced assistant Kent Stock (Sean Astin) for the final season. Suddenly everyone sours on their team and its chances of notching that 20th title. But what they don't know is that there is a diamond-in-the-rough catcher (Michael Angarano) who has just moved into town—as a punishment by his dad (Tom Arnold)—and that Stock is every bit as determined as Coach Van Scoyoc to continue Norway’s winning tradition. It initially takes some time for the players to warm up to their new coach but after a while… Oh you know the drill. The updated score in Sean Astin’s sports-movie career: football 1 baseball 0. The well-traveled actor can’t quite do for Season what he did for Rudy partly because this movie is cheesy beyond repair. But Astin who also executive-produced is by far the film’s biggest asset both on and off screen. He soldiers on as Coach Stock brimming with realistic enthusiasm and fortitude perhaps to spite the woeful script. Fellow veteran actor Boothe (Sin City) rounds out Season’s two bright spots as the pitch-perfect embodiment of a baseball sage who doesn’t waste words. But he and Astin don’t fit in this movie for reasons of authenticity or lack thereof on the others’ part. That includes onetime Next Big Thing Rachael Leigh Cook who plays Astin’s much-too-cutesy love interest; Tom Arnold striking out in a role that is (mercifully!) a near cameo; and Angarano (Sky High) who gives a performance that is heavy on cliché and light on realism. Like the movie itself. It’s hard to imagine even the youngest of viewers being able to resist sarcastic laughter throughout The Final Season—that’s just the degree of its corn. Almost everything is wrong here and the result is a nearly two-hour cliché whose transparency knows no age boundaries. Both director David M. Evans (The Sandlot of course) and writers Art D'Alessandro and James Grayford seem to only be concerned with concocting unnecessary melodrama. Most of the movie’s story for example is a highly fictionalized addendum to the less-cinematic true story on which it is based. And one scene early on serves as a microcosm of the director’s contrived efforts and forced cheese: After Angarano’s Mitch plunks his classmate/teammate with a Wiffle ball Evans cues music so heavy you’d think you were watching the climax of Mystic River. It’s utterly laughable and indicative of Evans’ many missteps. As for the baseball scenes they look sufficient when shown but Final Season is so much less a sports movie than it is the feel-good stuff of Disney TV movies—nay Disney cartoons.
Seven years earlier after a friend's wedding a group of guy pals vow to stay single for life. To sweeten the deal they put some money into a stock portfolio with the last remaining bachelor taking home the accumulated jackpot which has since grown to a whopping half a million dollars (the 90s market remember?) The competition comes down to two remaining tomcats Michael (Jerry O'Connell) and Kyle (Jake Busey) but the stakes are raised when Michael a struggling cartoonist becomes indebted to a casino owner for $51 000. Facing a certain and painful death if he fails to repay the debt within 30 days Michael plots to get Kyle to the alter with Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth) a former one-night stand who will do the deed for half of the prize money. Problem is Kyle is a sexist jerk and the future bride is a smart and beautiful cop who has her eyes on Michael.
While this film doesn't have too many redeeming qualities Jerry O'Connell is one of them. His character Michael Delaney is one of the few characters in the movie with a conscience. Working from a script that consists mostly of one boner joke after another O'Connell fares quite well considering the lines he has to deliver. He even becomes the underdog you end up rooting for. Jake Busey is a different story altogether: his character Kyle does not evoke the slightest shred of sympathy even as he lies on a hospital bed battling testicular cancer. Kyle is crass vulgar and chauvinistic. He treats women like dirt spewing lines like "I don't want a feminist bitch who'll keep her own name when you marry her." Natalie Parker who plays O'Connell's love interest gives a fair but slightly lackluster performance as an unrealistically bright sharp-shooting cop with a bone to pick. In one scene she casually discusses her love life with her partner during a shoot out in a crack house. Bill Maher (best known for hosting the late-night talk show "Politically Incorrect") makes a cameo appearance as the casino owner. The rest of the cast consists of a lot of blondes who all resemble one another.
Gregory Poirier (See Spot Run) who wrote and directed Tomcats knows his audience and gets right to the point. The film does not try to be clever and it may actually alienate anyone who is not a hormone-laden frat boy. The story is lame and predictable and most of the characters are obnoxious and detestable. There is no outstanding cinematography to speak of and there are no special effects. But let's face it Tomcats' target audience is not going for great visuals. They want their jokes Porky's style and Tomcats definitely delivers those. In a film that features librarian-by-day-dominatrix-by-night story lines lesbian fantasies and Viagra jokes Poirier is too busy catering to teenage boys to worry about being offensive to everyone else.