Film plays an integral role in our society. Not only does it reveal our cultural values, but it also is an activity that promotes healthy discussion about various topics — particularly ones that may be more sensitive. Movie theaters make billions each year from captive audiences who rapture in the entertainment and education of watching stories come alive on screen. Movies have the power to provoke intense emotions, causing us to empathize with or resent the characters portrayed in front of our eyes. Some, in particular, stick out and make lasting impressions.
Watching a movie at home or in the theater is a wonderful way to celebrate National Adoption Month — especially those that correlate with the year’s specific theme, which surrounds giving youth within foster care a voice. As the saying goes, “youth [are] the hope of the future.” That said, on your next family movie night, there are few good titles to check out. One of them is “Angels in the Outfield.”
Angels in the Outfield
There are two different versions of this film. One was created in 1951, and another in 1994. Be sure that you find the latter option, which features Danny Glover, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Lloyd. While the 1951 rendition is a classic, the remake portrays the foster care system.
When the movie begins, an animated baseball takes viewers through the clouds to introduce the main actors and title logo, setting an overall celestial feeling. Then, we are flown down to earth — into Anaheim, California, to be exact — where we meet the two main characters, foster children J.P. and Roger. J.P.’s opening lines pose two questions, “Roger, do you believe in Heaven?” and “Roger, why is it called a foster home?” not only reveals the relationship that these two have, but also sets the stage for the rest of the movie. Furthermore, we hear J.P.’s tagline, “It could happen!”
The two boys live in a house with their foster parent, Maggie Nelson, and another boy, Miguel. Both Roger and J.P.’s moms are no longer living, and that Roger is waiting for his dad to come back and get him. Following a brief conversation with Roger’s father at Maggie’s, viewers learn that the truth of the situation. Roger’s father promised that he would be back to pick up his son, but instead has decided to break that and move on without him. Not fully understanding, Roger asks when they will be a family again, and his father replies when the Angels — Roger’s beloved baseball team, which is currently in last place — wins the Pennant. That night, Roger prays that God will intervene and help the Angels win.
Reality vs. Movie
Like in every story, various details have been embellished to heighten the entertainment value and to keep audiences engaged. That said, how “Angels in the Outfield” presents the foster care system isn’t 100% accurate. It merely represents a stereotypical and dated perspective.
For one thing, three boys of varying ages wouldn’t room together. Living arrangements actually restrict two children
to a room, with no more than a five year gap between them. Also, in the real world, Maggie would provide sheets on the beds, not sleeping bags.
On the other hand, court hearings would happen a lot smoother. In the movie, J.P. is summoned to court with only a few hours’ notice only to wait all day. This isn’t how it goes with foster children in real life. Along those same lines, foster parents aren’t able to frequent the house their children are staying in as easily as J.P.’s father does.
Insight into Foster Care
There are many moments that give insight into foster care — both endearing and heartbreaking, revealing the potential reality of the kids in the system. That each story is different, but equally important. Maggie emphasizes at a pivotal moment that each and every child she’s watched is only looking for someone to love, illustrating the varying levels of trauma and walks of life the children come from. It’s not an easy life for them.
Miguel, the older boy that lives with J.P. and Roger is only shown briefly. Towards the end of the story, Maggie announces that Miguel got placed into another foster home. This is the reality for some foster children. Getting placed in multiple homes before either finding a forever home, or aging out of the system.
J.P. used to live in a car with his mom, and hence has a fear of cars and strangers. Each time he sees a car or h
as to ride in one, he has a recurring case of nausea. Roger relays this to Angel’s coach, played by Danny Glover, who responds by giving the kids a ride in the team bus so that J.P. will be more comfortable.
Roger’s court appearance in the movie is arguably the most heartbreaking and most crucial. Moments before Roger is allowed in, the father and judge have a conversation about custody. Roger’s father states, “…the kid isn’t mine anymore. I did what I could. I’m not proud of it.” When Roger enters, he is excited to see his dad and give him an update the Angels are doing better, and almost to the Pennant. He then watches, confused and tearful, as his dad walks out. Maggie takes Roger into her arms as the scene ends with him sobbing.
The film, “Angels in the Outfield,” features a cute, family-friendly story that teaches audiences about foster care, hope, and the belief in miracles. It’s a very good choice for a movie night to celebrate National Adoption Month. To see the resolution of the story, be sure to check it out!