‘THE HILL’ Review | A Proper Homerun

If you’ve seen one inspirational sports film, you’ve pretty much seen them all. An underdog story is far from a unique cinematic experience. What separates these films is how well they connect with an audience. The Hill, based on the true story of Rickey Hill, hits all the important emotional beats, even if it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre.

Rickey Hill was born in 1956 with degenerative spine disorder. This forced him to wear leg bracers throughout most of his childhood. However, he had a dream to play baseball in the major leagues, and he clearly had a gift for the game. As the son of a devout Baptist preacher in the south, Rickey’s father James (Dennis Quaid) did not foster his child’s dream, and instead wanted him to follow in his footsteps.

The Hill follows young Rickey Hill (Jesse Berry), as he struggles throughout his childhood, and into his high school and college years (played by Colin Ford). The film offers a very limited viewpoint of the south in the 1960s and 70s, and follows many of the predictable sports biopic tropes. But the emotional beats are sound, and that’s what really drives The Hill.

dennis quaid, Rickey Hill, The Hill

Even if you didn’t grow up dirt poor in the south, it’s easy to connect with Rickey and his siblings during their younger years. There are some very adult issues that Rickey and his family have to face, as the story moves along at a relatively brisk pace. Rickey’s father is a bit overly stubborn, but that’s not surprising coming from a staunch Baptist preacher.

Like with any sports biopic, there are a number of scenes that didn’t actually happen, or have been embellished for a more cinematic experience. These are the scenes that feel the most tiring. We’ve seen them countless times in a wide range of biopics, showing the main character at their lowest, only to see them rise to meet a new challenge in the final hour.

The Hill will have audiences emotionally invested in these characters for the entire duration of the film. You’ll question the dad’s faith, root for the grandmother, and even wonder why Rickey’s older brother Robert (Mason Gillett and Ryan Dinning) isn’t featured as much once Rickey is a little older.

It’s difficult to find an original take these days. Every movie seems to borrow or copy from a long list of films that have come before it. The Hill is no different, but it’s the emotional connection to the characters, brought on almost entirely by each actor’s performance, that pushes The Hill from just another sports biopic, to a heartfelt cinematic experience. I don’t even like baseball, but I’m a fan of Rickey Hill’s after watching this movie.

About The Hill

Synopsis: The remarkable true-life story of Rickey Hill’s improbable journey to play Major League Baseball.

Director: Jeff Celentano

Writers: Angelo Pizzo, Scott Marshall Smith, Aric Hornig

Stars: Dennis Quaid, Joelle Carter, Scott Glenn

Rated: PG

Runtime: 2 Hours, 6 Minutes

Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.

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