Directed by Walter Doniger
Safe at Home is purely a vehicle for Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, which seems kind of strange given the current landscape of films. It seems like sports stars do not put themselves out there nearly as much in roles like this, but there is a good reason. With heightened social media and connectivity of Facebook, Twitter, heck even cable TV, sports stars today are so under the microscope we can spend 90 minutes with them every day if we wanted to. But in 1962, to get to spend time with your sports idols like Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris, it required going out to a game if you were lucky enough, or catching a glimpse of a televised game, again if you were lucky enough. To produce a fictional film like Safe at Home is a wonderful way to share time with the fans for both Mantle and Maris.
With the intention in mind, this is really a nice little movie. Otherwise, it would be very easy to dismiss it as childish and silly, but that’s kind of the point isn’t it? I mean, they try to put a plot to it, having Hutch (Bryan Russell) get into a bind when he tells his little league teammates that his dad is good friends with Mantle and Maris. There’s even single father drama and a strong friendship on display, but the focus of the movie is the fantasy of seeing your sports idol at work and getting the chance to meet them, talk with them, and play the game with them. In that fashion, Safe at Home! is a success. Mantle and Maris don’t have to be much more than who they are, ballplayers, to give passable performances here. Nothing much is asked of them.
Some of the acting is wooden and feels very scripted, the M&M boys included, but I’ll be darned if I wasn’t somehow transported to my childhood and placed myself in Hutch’s shoes. With me it would have been Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez (Seattle years), but I would have been so wide-eyed and star struck to get the chance to talk the game with these stars. In that regard, as a narrative film it may not be that great, quite forgettable really, but its ability to capture the spirit of not just the game (and teach a moral lesson or two along the way), but also the spirit of being a kid who loves baseball really elevates Safe at Home! above its lackluster production values.