Directed by David M. Evans. With Michael Angarano, Tom Arnold, Sean Astin, Powers Boothe and Rachel Leigh Cook. Distributed by the Yari Film Group. 1 hour, 54 mins.


(mild profanity, adult themes). Playing at area theaters.

For a compendium of cornball homilies to keep you going for a couple of years, try the small-town baseball saga The Final Season. "Even the easy things are tough if you do them half-heartedly," says a wise old gramps. "Sometimes you just have to ride the horse in the direction it's going," says a pragmatic school board boss. "Baseball's the only game on Earth where the object is to get home," says the winningest coach on the Iowa high school circuit.

That would be Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe), who after guiding the Norway Tigers to their 19th consecutive state championship, reluctantly hangs up his coaching cap - because the evil school board wants to merge tiny Norway High with a bigger town's school down the road.

Norway (pop. 586) lives for its baseball. Its citizens fill the bleachers when the team goes out to practice. What's a despondent community and its red-jerseyed players going to do?

Enter nice guy Kent Stock (Sean Astin), a baseball enthusiast and assistant girls volleyball coach. The town doesn't take him seriously. The team doesn't take him seriously. But he knows he's got the stuff, and knows he can get the Tigers to their 20th championship - if only they'd stop sulking about the school closure and concentrate on playing ball.

And maybe, just maybe, Norway High can be saved.

Based on a true story, The Final Season is as corny as an Iowa farm field, but as the World Series rolls around, fans of the sport might want to check out this tried-and-true tale of overcoming adversity, beating the odds and banding together for a righteous cause.

There's a sign on the way into Norway, or at least a sign that somebody from the film crew put up: "On the eighth day, God created baseball."

If amen is your answer to that, then The Final Season is the movie for you.

- Steven Rea