The Old Ball Game: Gracie lacks kick.

Elisabeth Shue achieved fleeting indie-film cred as Nevada’s preppiest hooker in Leaving Las Vegas, but her movie debut was as the girlfriend in The Karate Kid. A skilled high school athlete, Shue was qualified to play the title role in that kiddie Rocky. Instead, she had to wait two decades for this semi-fictionalized family drama, based on her own struggle to join her high school soccer team in the ’70s. Carly Schroeder plays the title character, while Shue is relegated to another standard female supporting part: Mom. The only girl in a family of four kids, Gracie tries to comfort her older brother after he misses a crucial penalty kick. But Johnny turns to the comforts of male bonding and is killed in a car crash. A one-time soccer player whose interest in the sport borders on the unhealthy, Dad (Dermot Mulroney) tells the team to honor Johnny’s memory by crushing the school’s rival next year. He’s initially unsupportive, however, when Gracie decides to join the team and win the big game. With Springsteen’s “Growing Up” goading her, Gracie fights for her prenTitle IX rights, although she occasionally backslides and toys with getting her ration of glory as the girlfriend of a player who doesn’t deserve her. Gracie ultimately proves herself on the field, of course, though she does it in a sequence so rushed it suggests the filmmakers are a little embarrassed by its obviousness. Scripters Lisa Marie Petersen and Karen Janszen downscale Shue’s privileged childhood, as if Gracie would seem too much of a brat if she were both rich and a jock feminist. But the guy who really chokes here is director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), son of venerated D.C. documentarian Charles Guggenheim—and Shue’s husband. He includes all the expected sequences, but they’re so poorly paced that Gracie barely rises to the level of The Karate Kid, Part III. Rather than shoehorn the Shue saga into the underdog sports-flick format, the filmmakers should have stayed closer to the actual story. It might have made an unexpectedly successful documentary.

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