Sunday, April 14, 2019

VOD review: Jack of All Trades



Directed by: Harvey Glazer, Stuart Stone


ChinoKino score: B+

Review by Allan Tong

What are your old baseball cards worth?

That's the question behind the documentary, Jack of All Trades, where Toronto actor Stuart Stone searches for the answer, which in turns triggers a quest to find his estranged father who once ran a sports card empire.

Stone's adventure starts in his mother's condo where he rescues a few unopened boxes of vintage baseball cards from his childhood in the late-1980s. At that time there were 10,000 shops across North America, and the industry was worth $1.2 billion by 1991. Stuart's old man, Jack, was running 11 Sluggers shops and raking in the cash. A quiet hobby that began in the 1950's exploded in the 1980s.


Excited, Stuart (with his older sister, Karie, as moral support) takes his old cards to a card collecting show, but is crushed to learn they're worthless. What happened?


Stone uncovers the answer as he questions card retailers, big-time collectors, retired baseball star Jose Canseco, Topps (the last big card-maker) and a sports journalist. The market peaked when elite card producer, Upper Deck, oversupplied the market with its treasured 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. Before Upper Deck, sports cards were homely looking products where stale, dry bubblegum stuck to the backs of cards. Upper Deck elevated baseball cards from the minor to the major leagues with classy, slick and elegant designs. They were beautiful. (Disclosure: I collected baseball and hockey cards as a kid, though retired before the Upper Deck era.)

Unfortunately, Upper Deck also pumped out an oversupply of that Griffey rookie card to meet greedy demand. Speculation went mad. Ultimately, supply became distorted and reduced the value of that and other cards.

Baseball cards are supposed to surprise you. You open a pack and pray that an all-star lies inside. That's the fun. That creates scarcity. Scarcity drove up demand of the pre-1980s cards, so what happens when there's an abundance?

The bubble burst just as Stone's father abandoned his family for another woman. The movie takes a risk interweaving Stone's personal story with the card one, though overall it pays off. At times, Stone's story intrudes on the card one as the narrative switches uneasily from one to the next. Which story is this film telling?

It's telling both, of course, and the ending ties them together in heartfelt fashion. It helps that Stone is a mensch, who candidly reveals the painful secrets of his past. Sister Karie offers a steadying perspective that is detached yet intimate. (The film's title doesn't work, though.)

Baseball fans will love this film, but Jack of All Trades is more than a sports story. It's about dysfunctional families and broken childhoods. It's about reconciling before the game is over.




No comments:

Post a Comment