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Movie Review -- 'Stealing Home'

By CATHY BURKE, United Press International

'Stealing Home,' starring Mark Harmon and Jodie Foster, is a sentimental movie that glows with golden hues while weaving a story of death and emotional loss.

The characters in this movie seem to have it all: comfort, love and a purpose in life. Yet no one is happy.

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The movie begins with Billy Wyatt, played by Harmon, a once-talented baseball player now scratching out a living in baseball's minor leagues. He is heading back home to dispose of the ashes of his closest childhood friend, Katie Chandler, played by Foster.

Wyatt credits Katie with helping him find his way back to baseball after more than a decade of meaningless wandering. With flashbacks, Billy remembers one summer when he became a man and lost his way in life.

That summer flashback is a lush piece of nostalgia, circa late 1960s. Billy and his high school friend, Alan Appleby, played as a teenager by Jonathan Silverman, wonder what it's like to make love and dream about life's possibilities. But for the young Billy, a life-shattering experience throws him off guard, and Katie tries to pull him back to emotional stability.

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It takes Billy years to figure out Katie's message, and it's her posthumous orders that help him put the pieces of his life back together. The adult Billy must face his past and future when he goes back home to be with Katie one last time.

'Stealing Home' packs a lot of emotional wallops, but more often than not, the punches miss the mark. It's clear enough why Billy is such a lost soul, but why Katie, with her free spirit and disregard for convention? Of all the characters, in fact, Katie seems to have the firmest hold on life; her suicide makes no sense at all.

The film is often tender, and lovingly details the friendship between Billy and Alan both as teenagers and adults (the adult Alan is played wonderfully by Harold Ramis). But its emotional center -- the devotion of Billy to his father, played by John Shea, and the tie between Billy and Katie -- seem tenuousand forced. Why are these relationships at once so special and so destructive? 'Stealing Home' appears ready to take on the question, but then falls back on romance and stock symbols: rain for emotional turmoil; summer sun for sexual heat.

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At the edges, 'Stealing Home' has even more problems. Ginny Wyatt, Billy's mother, played by Blair Brown, alternates between the stoic widow and a lonely young woman left alone to raise two children. Her considerable problems never seem to be addressed: Somehow the family never moves from its rambling estate in the suburbs, mom never seems to have to scrape for a living, and at movie's end, she's aged but what is supposed to pass for mellow is merely bland. The young and middle-aged women who guide Billy and Alan into manhood are sexual teachers and little else.

'Stealing Home' is a nostalgia film that's pleasant to watch but tough to listen to. Every time you think the turbulent emotions will be explained, you get nothing more than another pretty shot.

This film is rated PG-13 and contains sexual material.

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