27 February 2017 | zkonedog
What A Mess
After watching the trailer for this movie, and being a big fan of baseball in general, I was really, really excited that this could be a winner. It looked like a taut, psychological take on the national pastime. What I found, however, was a movie that was a complete mess from beginning to end.
For a basic plot summary, "The Phenom" tells the story of Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons), an enormously talented pitching prospect who is having trouble harnessing his control. As a result, Hopper is sent to world-renowned sports psychologist Dr. Mobley (Paul Giamatti) in hopes of getting himself straightened out. During the course of his visits to Mobley, flashbacks reveal that many of Hop's problems may stem from overbearing father Hopper Sr. (Ethan Hawke).
The main problem with "The Phenom" is that it doesn't create any sort of emotional connection between the characters and the viewers. It basically just throws out a number of baseball clichés in place of meaningful character development. Even in the presence of some great actors (Giamatti & Hawk), this script/story just doesn't hold up. Heck, had the film just given me what the trailer showed it would have been at least decent. However, it ends up a muddled mess of clichés, flashbacks, and long dialogue scenes that don't seem to go anywhere or mean anything in the end.
Another big issue with the movie? I hate to criticize one single individual for the failure of an entire movie, but I will say this: Simmons (as the lead Hopper) either gave a poor performance or just wan't right for the roll. Never once did I feel caught up in what he was going through, likely because it didn't seem like he himself was too interested, either. I read a comment where this movie was called the "Good Will Hunting" (a film I don't enjoy all that much) of baseball flicks, but even in that effort at least Matt Damon gave a great effort as a mentally tortured youth. Simmons' character shows no such promise here.
So, unfortunately, "The Phenom" ended up being one of the poorest movies I've seen in quite some time. Whoever cut the trailer sure knew what they were doing, but other than that nothing goes right. The film needed to either go whole-hog into the baseball clichés, or not use them at all. Instead, the muddled middle is reached which, combined with a dud lead actor performance, sinks the entire project. I can't recommend this one in any way, shape, or form to anyone.