YMCA Baseball Team

YMCA Baseball Team (2002) 
South Korea
Director: Hyeun-seok Kim

This period movie takes place nearly 100 years ago and begins with the introduction of baseball to Korea by missionaries. The first team, the YMCA Baseball Team the title refers to quickly becomes the best in the country mostly due to the incredible batting of Ho-chang (Song Kang-ho), who must keep his love of the game a secret from his scholarly father who wants Ho-chang to follow the scholarly path, something he is ill-equipped to do. After a lot of initial silliness the movie develops much more serious undertones based on the Ulsa treaty which gave up Korea's sovereign rights to Japan. The team finds its practice grounds usurped by Japanese soldiers, who promptly challenge them to a game. No longer just a game, baseball has become the last hope for raising the beaten-down spirit of a conquered land.

As with many of the recent crop of Korean films the characters in this one are definitely the strongest point. Each member of the team is developed fairly well and all are likeable in their own silly way. Unfortunately the mixture of slapstick comedy and drama doesn't work very well here, while the comedic elements are quite well done there just wasn't enough time to get into the serious aspects of Korea losing sovereignty to Japan and the feelings of the nation towards that event. I think it would have been a much more enjoyable cinematic experience if the writers would have chosen to concentrate solely on one direction rather than blending the two. On a more positive note, all the actors gave solid, believable performance and the film was visually stunning with cinematography and effects reminiscent of Sam Raimi or the Coen brothers. I probably would have enjoyed this one more if I hadn't gone in expecting it to be another madcap comedy. While "YMCA Baseball Team" is certainly not a bad film, there are definitely other to be viewed before investing time in this one.



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