The only way to start this event off right is to start with the very first Disney Channel Original Movie. They werenâ€™t called DCOMs back then, but Disney Channel Premieres. The film Tiger Town aired in 1983 the same year the Disney Channel itself was launched. It is a basic and charming and average 80s sports movie. Having many of clichÃ©s of the genre as well as standard clichÃ©s in general, but this carries them better than most theatrical sports films. As far as DCOMs go itâ€™s much better than some of the crap weâ€™re going to see down the line . Simple, charming in its own way, small and quiet in its scope, it is a fine beginning to the concept of the DCOM.Â
Looking at this film with face value itâ€™s a mediocre sports movie filled with all the clichÃ©s of the underdog sports team rising from the depths of defeat and nothing else matters except winning, nothingâ€™s more important than the game, blah, blah, blah. So why did I say that itâ€™s good? Well the goodness can be found in the ways it defies clichÃ©s as well as its cinematography. But first the actual story.Â
Alex and his father love baseball! They went to all the games of their cityâ€™s team the Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately the Tigers havenâ€™t been doing so well even their star player Billy Young (played by Chief Brody himself Roy Sheider) is in a rut and hasnâ€™t gotten his former glory back since this is his last season before retirement. The Dad is a down on his luck blue collar worker, but heâ€™s an optimist and loves his son more than anything. He always tells his son that if you believe in something with all your heart that it can happen. For my readers that are cynics (then again if you are I donâ€™t know why you would read my articles) you might think this is the stupidest and tripe plot ever and thatâ€™s not completely without merit, but thereâ€™s enough that makes it different. Now Iâ€™m sure we all know this by now, but the Dad dies and the kid is obviously filled with grief and the â€œbelieving thingâ€ was the last words his father said to him. So Alex goes to the Tiger game and when Billy Young steps out to bat Alex actually does the â€œbelieving thingâ€ and Young hits a homerun and the team wins. This develops into virtually an obsession and he goes to every home game (how he can afford this when his Dad was in between jobs and a blue collar worker and his Mom is a housewife Iâ€™ll never know) since hearing it on the radio or watching it on TV the â€œbelieving thingâ€ doesnâ€™t work. Which makes no sense because faith isnâ€™t really supposed to have limitations because itâ€™s well faith! Anyway the obsession is so big that he actually starts to ditch school so he can go to the game and have the team win. Again this is sports movie clichÃ© #28: NOTHING MATTERS EXCEPT THE GAME AND WINNING. SCHOOL IS NOTHING WITHOUT THE GAME! â€œThanks to Alexâ€™s effortsâ€ the Tigers make it to the pennant and Alex is determined to skip school so he can be there to â€œbelieveâ€ the team to victory! Heâ€™s detained and he goes through all this other stuff and he does stupid, ridiculous, and highly unethical things to get him to the game following the rules of clichÃ© #28. Thankfully Roy Sheider as Billy Young stops all this nonsense by going up to bat and hitting a homerun and victory swing for the entire team before Alex got to do his â€œbelieving thingâ€ and Young is rightfully celebrated as a hero of the team. Okay Iâ€™ve ripped into this movie enough yes, there are plenty of stupid things about this movie, but I think thereâ€™s more good.Â
What do I like about this movie? Well for one I like the relationship between Alex and his father. Even though Alex by himself is very bland the scenes with the father are very nice. You can see that the father loves his son and truly believes in the idea he told his son. And thatâ€™s just it, I like the theme this filmâ€™s TRYING to tell, I just donâ€™t like the presentation of that theme. The Disney films have that â€œbelieving ideaâ€, but it keeps it as an idea, a philosophy, a psychological and emotional center and core. The other Disney films didnâ€™t have this literally the dream had to come true through the charactersâ€™ own efforts and the events of the films not the literal believing and boom it happens!!!!! Roy Scheider in terms of character saves this film! Billy Young is a middle aged athlete with so many fans and so much pressure to make his last season count and heâ€™s constantly disappointing them. The interesting thing is he only interacts with Alex once! Only once! Alexâ€™s faith and the faith Young had in himself is what led the team to victory. The best thing about this movie is that itâ€™s NOT like Angels in the Outfield where God blatantly helps a professional baseball team cheat its way to the top. This film has a certain ambiguity to it. The film may want you to think that itâ€™s Alexâ€™s â€œbelieving thingâ€ thatâ€™s helping them, but thereâ€™s no real certainty of that because thereâ€™s a possibility that it is Billy Young slowly but surely digging himself out of the rut and mind you Young wins the pennant without Alex. It makes you think whether it really is Alexâ€™s â€œbelieving thingâ€ or whether itâ€™s Young having more faith in his talents and himself. So the fact that the film gives a modicum of an option to choose whether to believe in the â€œbelieving thingâ€ is a really nice touch.Â
Okay I really like how this film is shot. The director is a Detroit native and adds great authenticity to the environments. This is probably the only time youâ€™ll ever see Detroit this good looking. (apologies to anyone from Detroit) There is a passion and love for the city in the director and it shows in the cinematography! I also think that the ending is one of the strangest Iâ€™ve ever seen in a DCOM or movie in general. Alex goes down to the diamond with the fans to celebrate the Tigers and everything and there are balloons everywhere and then it cuts to Alex sitting in the stands by himself with everybody gone and the diamond is being removed for football season and everything and he just leaves. What was that? Did he really not make it to the pennant game? Did they actually lose? Did he dream up the whole entire thing? WHAT HAPPENED???!! It leaves you on a very odd note and I like it. You donâ€™t know whether it was real or not and that adds to the ambiguity which is awesome!!!!!
While there are a lot of stupid things in this movie I think thereâ€™s just enough to enjoy and give it at least 1 viewing and it is a good start to the DCOM legacy. With its great cinematography, Roy Scheider being awesome, clever ambiguity and weird ending this film is worth your time I mean itâ€™s only 1 hour and 15 minutes.Â
VERDICT: 3.4 â€œbelieving thingsâ€ out of 5Â
Join me next time where I go forward to 1996 for the next DCOM on my list Susie Q!!!!!!!!