by David Oestreich
The truest moment of human emotion in Milltown Pride comes when Will Wright (Thomas Sneed), a young man from the more genteel side of his North Carolina town, thoughtlessly uses the discriminatory term “lint-head” in a conversation with his friend Chick (Ben Ascher), a denizen of the textile-mill workers’ village. In that moment, the fabric of goodwill woven between them through years of setting aside class differences to share their mutual love of baseball unravels to a very thin and tense thread.
Unfortunately, instead of thoughtfully exploring the potentially rich subject of social tensions between the privileged and the disenfranchised in the 1920s Carolina mill culture (much less demonstrating how the power of the gospel addresses those issues), Bob Jones University’s Unusual Films has, in Milltown Pride, opted to produce a “feel-good summer movie” with a lot of Christian trappings.
The film’s protagonist has just left home and the overbearing authority of his father (played by producer Darren Lawson) to pursue his dream of being a professional baseball player. He hopes to accomplish this by making the local mill team and playing well enough there to catch the eye of a minor league scout. However, in order to play on the mill team, he has to actually work at the mill—something his bigoted, classist father would not tolerate. At the mill, Will meets and pursues the affections of Ginnie Douglas (Becca Kaser), a young lady who works in the office and happens to be the daughter of the man who runs the mill. Her father, in turn, happens to be a guru to would-be baseball sluggers.
But, while seemingly on the fast-track to realizing his dearest hopes, Will does face significant obstacles. One is his teammate Pike (Logan Phillips), a brooding malcontent who has disliked Will from the day they first met as kids in the sandlot. When Will’s baseball prowess earns him the instant admiration of the other players and favorite-son status with the coach, Pike attempts to undermine Will’s popularity and ability in any way he can.
The larger obstacle Will encounters, however, is his own lack of self-control. Not long after he arrives in the mill village, he is sneaking off after practice to the village’s makeshift speakeasy for a sip of moonshine. Out from under the authority of his parents, his ambivalence towards God surfaces, and he quickly loses control of his drinking, his athletic performance and his relationship with Ginnie.