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'Stealing Home' (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 26, 1988

"Stealing Home" ranks right up there on the fun meter with counting acoustical tiles. It is an innocuous boyhood memoir told by a burned-out baseball player left to dispose of the ashes of his former baby sitter.

Why would anybody make this movie?

Mark Harmon, the narrator and flashback-instigator, is ex-ballplayer Billy Wyatt. The disheveled pinch hitter is "the lowest I've ever been," living in a motel with a cocktail waitress and eating pastel cereals. On the skids for reasons unknown, Billy is redeemed by his friend Katie (Jodie Foster), influential even after her death. His mother (Blair Brown, who looks about Harmon's age) urges him to come and get his urn. On the bus home, Billy gets to thinking ...

Harmon, who shares the role with two child actors, actually doesn't have that much to do. All the role of Billy calls for is boy-toyish charm and an "Uh-oh, I think I feel a flashback coming on" look in the eyes. Harmon, cute for life, makes thinking look like an Olympic event. First, he thinks back to the time Katie, then his baby sitter and hero, stole the family Caddy and took him to the beach. He was 10 and he touched her leg, tentatively. The chubby 16-year-old smiled and said tenderly that it would never work out.

Then he remembers stealing home plate years later at Carlton Academy and losing his virginity to his buddy Appleby's prom date. Whoo, what a day! A family tragedy postpones his summer at pro ball camp, but Katie is there to comfort him. Then she takes him, his mother and Appleby (Jonathan Silverman) to Seasmoke beach, where Appleby loses his virginity to an older woman. On one occasion, Katie makes love to Billy and tells him, "You're a ballplayer. That's what you are."

It seems a fairly flimsy relationship, though Foster gives Katie substance -- easygoing, wind-whipped and, like James Dean, bound to die too soon. There's not enough of her casual flamboyance to perk up this pale comedy-drama by mediocrities Steven Kampmann and Will Aldis. Admittedly a pastiche of their memories, the movie bespeaks the dust of '60s yearbooks and greeting card sentiment. Of course, that stuff can be touching ("The Summer of '42) or quirky ("Gregory's Girl"), but here only allergy sufferers will leave with soggy Kleenex.

"Stealing Home" is rated PG-13 for several mild sex scenes.

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