American Pastime Movie Review

Stumbling upon American Pastime soon after watching Ken Burns' epic World War II documentary The War was a happy coincidence. Burns does a great job telling the relatively unknown story of the Japanese-American internment camps, and this movie is a nicely detailed, albeit hokey, fictionalization of one family's experience in such a camp. Burns, who also produced a massive documentary on baseball, would certainly appreciate the film's pivotal baseball subplot.

When war breaks out, the Nomura family is enjoying a happy middle-class life in 1940s L.A. All that changes when the internment order arrives, and soon Mom (Judi Ongg), Dad (Masatoshi Nakamura), older brother Lane (Leonardo Nam), and younger brother Lyle (Aaron Yoo) find themselves in a drafty barracks in the middle of a desert somewhere in the American west. While most everyone tries to adapt with dignity, the volatile Lyle, who has been robbed not only of his baseball scholarship but also his beloved jazz music, simmers with rage. He's even more outraged when he learns that Lane has volunteered to fight with the 442nd division, the famous all Japanese-American unit that went on to glory in European fighting. Why would Lane want to fight for the same army that has machine guns trained on him day and night in the camp?

As the years pass, Lyle starts playing jazz at camp parties and becomes smitten with Katie Burrell (Sarah Drew), who just so happens to be the daughter of a camp guard (Gary Cole), who just so happens to be a former baseball player. Lyle and Katie's budding romance is pure Romeo and Juliet, and when Lyle joins the camp's baseball team and it heads for a big game against the local bigoted townies, including Burrell, the baseball-as-redemption clichés pile upon the young forbidden love clichés until the whole enterprise almost collapses under the weight of all that corn.

Still, American Pastime has much to recommend it. The art direction and production design are top-notch; the film looks great. Both Yoo and Nam turn in powerful performances that should prove inspirational to young adult audiences. In fact, it's teens that will probably get the most out of the movie. There's a valuable American history lesson here that is often not taught, and the more people who know about it the better, especially in these paranoid times when we find ourselves looking around with more suspicion than ever. American Pastime asks what it truly means to be an American. What better question to ask these days?

Well, that's one pastime.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : , Barry Rosenbush, Terry Spazek

Starring : , , , Judi Ongg, , Masatoshi Nakamura


American Pastime Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 2007


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