Film Review – Screwball
Screwball takes one of the big baseball steroids scandals and makes it so someone like me who knows almost nothing about baseball can understand clearly the people involved in the scandal as well as a lot of their motivation. While it doesn’t reach new levels in the documentary field it is tells what it needs to effectively. We get access to a lot of the people involved, including the newspaper writers who broke it and the law enforcement officers, but even better the actual “doctor” who committed the crimes, Tony Bosch.
From the first moment Tony Bosch comes across as a guy who loves the limelight, and even though he was caught doing a crime he still, in many ways, relishes what this has brought him and takes pride in the work he did getting drugs to baseball players and how he was able to fool the system that Major League Baseball put into place. He goes step-by-step about his process to get drugs to his clients, and tells some fun stories about the weird places he has had to rush to. Basically he is a fun guy to have tell you a story even if you never can quite trust him. He definitely has some ego issues about his qualifications as a doctor as other interviewers that helped take him down will add their own more likely commentary.
But besides the talking heads that we are used to in most documentaries the film has a very different way of showing us reenactments of events. Whenever a scene is acted out to show what happened we get adults doing the voices over a child mouthing the words or acting out what the narrator is saying. We even have them dress up like their real life counterparts, be it looking very muscular, adding facial hair or being tanned. Although it’s a new way of doing things that could be distracting, it never takes away from the story being told but at the same doesn’t really add anything either. If they had done it with adults and had them act it out the results would have been the same. It seemed more like a gimmick that went too long.
What keeps the film going is that the characters involved are just interesting enough to move the story forward. A major figure of the scandal, Porter Fisher, appears later in the story and comes across as a good-natured but really gullible individual. Because he seems so oblivious even now when talking about events where he knows the full story, it makes for an interesting contrast to the con man doctor and investigative journalists and detectives. His uncovering what is happening actually makes it even easier for us to follow how this scandal blew up in so many places since he is as clueless as any viewer who knows nothing about baseball.
Still as the story moves on and we learn more about the fallout of this case it does start to drag. There are some new angles that show up about how dedicated MLB is to actually dealing with steroid abuse and some nice blow-ups from player Alex Rodriguez who is very deep in this scandal, but it’s not enough to add to the commentary. After awhile the characters become almost too familiar and do not quite give us enough new material to make what they are going through impact us as the scandal worsens around them.
Director Billy Corben definitely knows this story well and has included every viewpoint possible (unless people wouldn’t provide an interview, of course) so we get as full a picture as we can of this particular scandal and its aftereffects. For those who want to know more this film is going to provide a great deal of information and a number of personalities to learn about. It’s not a groundbreaking piece of work, but it’s entertaining and informative enough to recommend you give it a watch.