Thursday, July 05, 2012

"Baseball, Dennis & The French": Chronicling a Change of Heart

How do you convince your brother-in-law that conservatives aren’t hate-filled Neanderthals and that you haven’t gone off the deep end by becoming one yourself? A good place to start would be a film called “Baseball, Dennis & The French” that was directed by former Southern California liberal activist Paul Croshaw.

The operative term in the prior sentence is “former.” This lighthearted documentary takes viewers on a ninety-minute journey that begins with a homerun-hungry Little Leaguer whose parents were the lone McGovern boosters on their San Gabriel Valley block.

From there Croshaw focuses breezily on his high-school infatuation with French films and his growing involvement in liberal politics—culminating at one point with a side-by-side photo of the filmmaker-to-be with now Minnesota Senator Al Franken. \

Then comes the troublesome slow-motion “epi-phony” over the car radio—a Los Angeles-based talk radio host named Dennis Prager. When “Dodger Talk” gave way to Dennis, the invitation to philosophical introspection was too much to resist.

At this point moviegoers, like Croshaw himself, get heavier doses of Prager, but not Prager-uncut. Short monologues on various political and moral topics are interspersed with humorous vignettes about baseball, religion, and the French.

(France is the film’s example par excellence of a secular society that values cultural sophistication above all else and whose intellectual sensibilities are offended by traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and objective moral standards.)

At movie’s end Croshaw provides a summary of his intellectual and spiritual journey (in French) while removing mime makeup. Dennis’ happy conclusion is that he’s “thrilled that this Jew (Prager) has helped Paul find his Christian faith. Only in America!”

One viewing of the movie won’t convince hardcore ideologues of anything, but for folks interested in honest dialogue, “Baseball, Dennis, and the French” is a great starting point. Like the homer hit by young Croshaw, the film plants a seed that can grow in several directions—from confronting the practical goodness of most conservatives (cf. the book by Arthur Brooks, “Who Really Cares”) to posing serious questions about God, morality, and The Lawrence Welk Show.

The documentary has recently had several one-night showings at select theaters throughout the Southland. Close to 100 patrons were present at last week’s screening in Riverside. Readers can visit the film’s website for news about future showings.

And if your brother-in-law is averse to visiting a theater space largely populated by conservatives or to reading Dennis Prager’s recent book, “Still the Best Hope,” the fellow who doubts your sanity might be willing to devote an hour-and-a-half to watching a modestly priced gift DVD in his home—if only to understand his sibling’s benighted spouse!

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