An alcoholic former baseball player gains redemption via an unlikely friendship in "Where Hope Grows," an earnest and at times touching if somewhat unfocused faith-based drama. Director Chris Dowling should have taken another swing at his script for the sake of clarity and dimension before cameras rolled.
Kristoffer Polaha makes for an appealing lead as Calvin Campbell, who's seemingly been drifting and drinking since he stopped playing for the Detroit Tigers years ago. The reason he left the majors, what he's been doing since and why he alone is raising his teenage daughter, Katie (McKaley Miller), are fuzzy questions. So is the history of Produce (David DeSanctis), a young supermarket worker with Down syndrome whom Calvin slowly befriends. (And ,yes, he's known simply as Produce for the fruits and vegetables he lovingly tends.)
Calvin finds new purpose in his life after getting to know the optimistic Produce. Meanwhile, Produce also bonds with Katie, who's dating the pushy, cocky Colt (Michael Grant); Calvin meets an attractive fellow Alcoholics Anonymous member (Brooke Burns); and Calvin's longtime drinking buddy, Milt (Billy Zabka), is headed for disaster. Also, there's something afoot between Milt's wife (Danica McKellar) and a local musician (Alan Powell) but that, like several of the other strands here, gets cursory treatment.
A melodramatic third act strains to reconcile the film's disparate parts, and the feel-good ending is not quite earned. Still, the film offers a few lessons for those inclined to hear them.
"Where Hope Grows."
MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief language, an accident scene and thematic issues involving drinking and teen sexuality.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.