'The Saint of Second Chances' review: A baseball showman gets a portrayal of Doc suitably eager to please

‘The Saint of Second Chances’ review: A baseball showman gets a portrayal of Doc suitably eager to please

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Watch all the documentaries I make and you’re sure to see the Chicago White Sox’s infamous Disco Demolition Night emerge in a wide variety of contexts. Sometimes the 1979 fiasco is used as a case study on racism and the marginalization of black voices in music. It is sometimes used as a case study on homophobia.

In the new documentary by Morgan Neville and Jeff Malmberg The saints of second chances, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, Disco Demolition Night is boiled down to an origin story. Yes, Mike Veeck regrets that anyone read negative subtext in the unfortunate promotion, but makes it clear that he just wanted to impress his father and fill a stadium. Like many dark things inside The saint of second chancesany other innuendo is lost in a sea of ​​stylistic flourishes and heartbreaking button-pushing.

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The saint of second chances

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A lively, if manipulative, portrait of a flamboyant family.

Place: Tribeca Film Festival (Documentary Spotlight)
Directors: Morgan Neville and Jeff Malmberg

1 hour and 33 minutes

Do not get me wrong, The saint of second chances is a playful, funny, and emotionally effective documentary tailor-made for the Veeck family, a multigenerational clan of baseball showmen. Does he always earn his wild deviations of tone and feeling? The people within the film do, but I’m not so convinced by the film itself.

Mike’s father, Bill, is a baseball Hall of Famer, owner of several franchises, and a legend famed for substantial innovations like integrating the American League and frivolous things like giving 3-foot-7-inch Eddie Gaedel a single at -bat in 1951. When Veeck bought out the struggling White Sox, he hired his son to orchestrate stunts to fill spots. Only one, Disco Demolition Night, culminated in the on-field rivalry and seemingly ended both Veeck’s professional careers.

If true, however, this documentary would have a different name. Veeck went to the lower echelons of the independent and professional baseball league to revitalize his career and, in the process, revitalize his life. A story that begins with fathers and sons instead becomes a saga of fathers and daughters, but really only in the last 20 minutes, with a shift that certainly made me cry and also manipulate.

The saint of second chances it generally doesn’t care whether or not you feel manipulated, as long as you feel entertained, as befits the Veeck brand. Mike is a gregarious storyteller and Neville and Malmberg follow suit. The documentary has plenty of archival footage to play with, chronicling bad ideas like the much-maligned White Sox stage wearing shorts and the whole Disco Demolition riot, which is sometimes projected behind Veeck’s interviews, in the in case you didn’t know it’s always unfolding. in the back of his mind. Jeff Daniels relates with “Can You Believe This Guy Is Real?” misgivings shared by several talking heads, including Darryl Strawberry, who got his second chance with Mike Veeck’s St. Paul Saints.

But just as the Veecks knew that sometimes an evening with a t-shirt or a bobblehead isn’t enough incentive to draw a crowd, here the filmmakers know that a Veeck documentary requires more embellishment. Sometimes the baseball crowd speaks directly to the audience. There is a seventh inning stretch inserted into the documentary.

Then there are the representations of the re-enactments It’s always sunny in Philadelphia stars Charlie Day as Veeck, initially eager to please, then hapless, then eager to please. Those reenactments are driven more by a Greatest Hits-style soundtrack than scripted dialogue, which proves to be a perfect vehicle for Day’s expressive style of performance, which in this case borders on mime. With Veeck playing his father in a nice touch, the reenactments aim more to enhance the larger-than-life feel of the story than convey information, but they aren’t distracting (unless you find a clean-shaven day slightly unnerving, which I have done initially).

Veeck is a crowd-pleaser, and that’s where Neville and Malmberg are best at here. The saint of second chances play big and wide. Just as Veeck points out that he staged a version of baseball for people who don’t necessarily like baseball, The saint of second chances it is like that of Chapman and Maclain Way The battered bastards of baseball for those who like baseball a little less in their independent documentaries on minor league baseball. That The saint of second chances will join Battered bastards on Netflix offers one of the smallest examples of Netflix’s “something for everyone” philosophy.

It’s the film’s final chapter, fittingly after the seventh inning, that will leave some moviegoers a sobbing disaster — “Veeck,” after all, rhymes with “wreck” — and others scratching their heads. I won’t spoil what the change of course is, because it’s treated as a surprise or a twist: a documentary tactic that can feel exploitative and works here too, even if Veeck and the other talking heads handle it with full sincerity. The problem is that “full sincerity” is not a good complement to Neville and Malmberg’s approach for the first hour.

What’s organic in life isn’t always organic in a 93-minute documentary. And you can be fully aware that the strings are being pulled and moved at the same time. Veeck, the inventor of the exploding scoreboard, Tonya Harding Bat Night and Free Pot Night (in which attendees received… a vase of flowers) probably wouldn’t care about the purity of audience reactions as long as people are responding – And The saint of second chances it will make you answer. Let other documentaries treat Disco Demolition Night with substance.