In the "Big inning" there was God, a few Yeshiva students and an ex-prisoner. The Yankles is a comedy about a group of Yeshiva students who have a calling from God to start a baseball team, aptly named, The Yankles.
It is a true comedic sight as an army of Yeshiva student baseball players, dressed in their uniform black and white suits, march on to the baseball pitch, with Tzizit hanging freely and Payot tumbling from their baseball helmets.
A rather misfit group, they are led by Rabbi Meyer who coaches his team religiously through a How To Play Baseball book, and as The Rebbe of the Yeshiva says, ‘there is nothing you can’t learn from a book!’
The squad seems all but a joke until Elliot, the captain of the Yeshiva team, convinces disgraced ex-baseball star Charlie Jones, to coach them. An ex-con after a series of drink driving offences, he coaches the team as part of his community service.
The interplay between the Yeshiva students and Charlie is charming. As the two cultures collide and try as it were, to play ball, the film oozes humour and comic satisfaction as Charlie learns his Shmucks from his Tuches!
The comedy is however subdued by the more serious involvement of Elliot’s father, Frankie Dubs. Played by Happy Days star, Don Most, he is embittered by the fact his son has joined a Yeshiva and given up his previous life as a future baseball star. The film raises the issues of how religion can fit into the secular world, and the idea of marrying outside the religion, as Elliot’s sister, Deborah, struggles with her relationship with Charlie.
These more serious moments in the film, are sometimes cringe worthy and hinder the films success. Elliot’s father is a stereotype of the self-hating Jew and sport fanatic father, and his drinking partners are no better, as the actors try to portray an anti-semitic tone, throwing a barrage of abuse at Elliot.
Its cringe-worthiness is magnified due to the quality of the acting, which is questionable from some of these more minor characters. Whilst watching, it became even more embarrassing when poor acting skills emanated from the major character too. This, together with questionable editing skills, hinted to the film’s shoe string budget, as a screen-wipe made its way across the audiences’ vision to signify a new scene.
The film could have also been slightly shorter, and from listening to audiences comments, was a little too long for a comedy.
The films true glory occurs towards the end as you begin to enter the world of the Ultra-Orthodox Jew and begin to see it in a new refreshing light.