MOVIES: 'Home Run' spotlights alcoholism, Christ-centered recovery
FILM SYNOPSIS: "Home Run" is a faith-based production meant to give insight into the lives of people struggling with personal as well as professional problems. Featuring Scott Elrod ("Men in Trees") and Vivica A. Fox ("Independence Day"), and directed by David Boyd, the story centers on Cory, a baseball player grappling with alcoholism. When Cory's out-of-control drinking combines with his rage, his behavior creates a PR nightmare, his team suspends him, and he ends up in the small Oklahoma town of his youth, coaching Little League. Forced by his suspension to seek help, Cory's only option is Celebrate Recovery. Ignoring it and its members at first, Cory ultimately hits rock bottom. But as will happen often with people who hit rock bottom, Cory begins to see that there is more to life than just him, and he is rescued by the realization that there is more to life than just the mental and physical.
REVIEW: While the baseball field may be the setting, "Home Run" is not really about sports. The story concerns the destructive nature of our addictive habits and our need for Jesus Christ to complete our lives. It also spotlights Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step restoration program launched by Rick Warren's Saddleback Church some years ago. During the location shoot in Tulsa, Okla., I was able to talk with the co-founder of Celebrate Recovery. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, the review.
The makers of Home Run want the same thing as those in the secular end of the business -- your financial support. My allegiance, however, is to you, not the well-intentioned moviemaker.
The acting, though sincere, is uninspired. Years ago, Jack Lemmon played an alcoholic in "The Days of Wine and Roses," giving moviegoers a three-dimensional portrait of a man who finally faces his ailment. That film is gut-wrenching. Because of its poignancy and realism, if any film can cause people to seek help to control a life-destroying addiction, it may be the one.
Home Run contains mostly the same message. Alas, we never feel Cory's loss. Indeed, he really doesn't lose anything. By film's end, he's reestablished and even wins back his former sweetheart. In Days of Wine and Roses, there is a loss, a tragic loss, and it does haunt us. What's more, that film instills a fear of bad habits that can control a life.
Home Run is not a bad movie. It is, however, more like an infomercial than a movie.
The picture's strongest scene has the lead realizing that he can't defeat his addiction. No one can. You'll live with that craving the rest of your life. And there may be days when you take your eye off Christ or fail to contact a supportive ear, and succumb to the temptation. That's when a minor character in the film reminds us that God knows each person's frame. He studies the heart, not our works, loving us despite our shortcomings or our sins. This, as I said, is the film's biggest strength, for it gives us all an insight into God's unconditional love.
Allow me to finish up by including portions of the friendly interview I conducted in 2011 with the co-founder of Celebrate Recovery. John Baker, a former businessman and recovering alcoholic, graciously gave me as much time as I wanted to interview him while on location of the making of "Home Run."
PHIL BOATWRIGHT: John, let me get the money issue out of the way so people understand what the sole purpose is of Celebrate Recovery. How is the organization funded?
JOHN BAKER: We're a ministry of Saddleback Church. I'm on staff and receive a salary from the church. And although there are 19,000 churches that have a Celebrate Recovery program, we only have six people on the Celebrate Recovery headquarters. Our organization is built by volunteers. Some churches have become so big as far as Celebrate Recovery that they have now hired what they call Celebrate Recovery pastors. But they are funded by their own churches. By the way, neither the Saddleback Church nor the Celebrate Recovery organization receives any money from the film production. If I had money I would have paid to get a movie like this made. As far as the Celebrate Recovery churches, they don't pay a penny to use the Celebrate Recovery program.
BOATWRIGHT: How did the concept for Celebrate Recovery come about? And what exactly is the concept?
BAKER: I had the addiction of alcohol for 19 years. It didn't start off that way, but it became that way. One of the things secular organizations say of alcoholism is that it's a disease. I call it the sin disease. The day I would be getting drunk, I was purposely sinning. But there was also a day, and I wish I could tell you the date, when that line got crossed and I could not stop drinking. My addiction owned me. And it wasn't until I fully turned it over to Christ through the 12 steps that the hole in my life was filled. What you discover is that usually with every addiction, the addiction is just the symptom of the problem.
BOATWRIGHT: How do you find what that problem is?
BAKER: That's what you do in recovery. While recovering through my participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, I began desiring a program centered more on Christ's teachings. I outlined a 13-page, single-spaced letter to Saddleback Senior Pastor Rick Warren detailing the purpose of the program. Rick's response was, "John, you do it." Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered program based on eight principles drawn from the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. These are the foundation of the approach to dealing with a variety of personal issues ranging from substance abuse, alcohol addiction, sexual addiction, child abuse and more.
BOATWRIGHT: For people in cities that don't have this program, what would you advise them?
BAKER: Start one! And we'll help you.
BOATWRIGHT: How would they go about that?
BAKER: Go to the website (www.celebraterecovery.com) and find a recovery program close by. There's a group finder on the site. Go check it out. Each group will have its own personality, so if you don't like that one, go check out another one. There are representatives who are volunteers, who do training. You're never left without help.
BOATWRIGHT: They're given materials?
BAKER: Yes, in fact they can look at the materials on the website.
BOATWRIGHT: When you get a handle on your illness or your sin, do you find that another hindrance in your spiritual walk pops up?
BOATWRIGHT: If someone says to you, "Look, brother, God can't bless you because you're doing this or that," that raises the question, when can God ever bless you?
BAKER: I don't say that, because God takes us just as we are. But He loves us too much to let us stay that way. Everybody who has sin is broken. We've all fallen short, all missed the mark -- some of us to different extents. Their hurt may not have affected their life as drastically as drugs would. But God will continue to use you as long as you're useful. Until He takes me home, I will not be fully recovered from sin. But He doesn't ignore me because I struggle or fail. It's so hard for us to comprehend that deep of a love. That's one of the things I learned through the program.
Home Run is rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material. There is no language or sexuality. In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org. He is also a regular contributor to "The World and Everything In It," a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).