“The Bad News Jews?”

It was either that or a variation on A League of Their Own, the other movie The Yankles gets its inspiration from.  Charlie Jones (Brian Wimmer) is “the boozer who botched the ball,” having dropped the catch that would have sent his team, the Los Angeles Spirits, to the World Series.  After his third drunk driving conviction, he’s released from prison needing to do 192 hours of community service.  A group of Orthodox, Jewish yeshiva students have formed a baseball team called The Yankles.  They’re the only ones willing to give him a second chance.  “They” being the brother of Charlie’s former girlfriend, Elliot (Michael Buster) who once had a promising baseball career until he opted to join the yeshiva.  Much to the chagrin of his father (Don Most, Happy Days), with whom he has a strained relationship.

“I understand what drew him to it in the first place.  Community, history, spirituality.” –Deborah (Susanne Sutchy)

Easily a half hour too long, the movie especially takes too long to get going.  Thin on laughs and heavy on sentiment, The Yankles attempts to wring laughs out of the cultural differences, but “look how Jewish we are, but respect the culture” doesn’t translate into a lot of guffaws.  The Rebbe (Jesse Bennett) imbues every conversation, character, and aspect of the game with meaning, so much so that it stifles whatever natural laughs might accidently bubble up.  He teaches us the lessons rather than letting Charlie and Elliot naturally learn them.

“A good book is always a blessing.” –The Rebbe

At its heart, The Yankles is about the journey of redemption of Charlie.  Redemption is the story of God’s mission to restore. God unfolds His relational Word, in conversation, in Laws, in history, and, ultimately, in Christ. He seeks to rescue His people and usher in His kingdom, a new way of living.

“Some of us are happy right where we are.” –Frankie Dubs

It’s easy for us to get stuck in patterns of self-destruction, believing ourselves to be so broken as to be beyond redemption.  The thing is, brokenness can be redeemed. Real love risks and offers redemption and when loved well, we’re taught about God. In all of our brokenness and (self-) deception, in all of our brokenness and desperation, we can come before the Lord and be fully accepted. The Holy Spirit wants us to dine on truth.  That we’re an image bearer of God, a beautiful creation.  Yes, we’re sinners, but there’s conviction, repentance, and redemption from that.  And freedom.  Freedom from the chains of our addictions, our self-loathing, our self-protection, our “ugliness”.  We’re loved as we are for who we are.  We need to set aside the lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves (or that have been programmed into us by others)

Being fully human means to participate in the story, embracing all aspects of life, but living with the goal of loving everyone and everything with holiness and imagination. It should impact how we work, how we play, and how we relate to one another; finding our redemptive mission in continuing the work He began to reconcile all of creation to Him.

“The slightest act can have the greatest of consequences.” –The Rebbe

If we DO, it should be from the overflow of what Christ has done for you. If we DO, it should be us working out what it means to join in God’s mission to reconcile the world back to Him. If we DO, it should be from the wellspring of love. There’s no searching for redemption in our acts of service. There is only thinking of others as more important that yourself and serving them.

“We can be like that again.” –Charlie

Where The Yankles trips up is when the movie decides it’s more important for it to drive its lessons home than let the story unfold.  It struggles to find its sense of rhythm, often not knowing which character to follow, following various characters in a scattershot fashion.  Filmmakers David R. Brooks (Director and co-writer) – together with Zev Brooks (co-writer and co-producer) deliver an earnest movie, heavy on the sweetness though not entirely without its charm.