Twelve year old Jimmy Houlihan is fearful and who could blame him. It's 1954 and the Cold War is heating up. Jimmy's ale-drinking father, Big Jim has a predilection for setting things on fire far beyond his welding shop. With his ever-present cloud of cigarette smoke, burning couches and flaming barrels of trash, Big Jim keeps his Massachusetts factory town neighbors both amused and wary.
Jimmy's fear surfaces in the game he loves most, but is terrible at baseball. When Big Jim tries to inspire his son by offering him a train trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, Jimmy is thrilled he agrees to help pay expenses by taking odd jobs. Jimmy's mother June, a bristling beauty who works in a donut shop, doubts Big Jim, will come through, fearing he'll once again disappoint their son. Only Jimmy's live-in grandmother, Nana Loring, has faith in Big Jim, as she dispenses the humor and wisdom necessary to hold the Houlihan family together.
When sweet Nana Loring dies from a heart condition, the family goes into a tailspin. Jimmy is thrown closer to his friend Benjy, a good kid courting a life of crime amidst a motherless home and an abusive father.
After a callous nun tells Jimmy all Protestants end up in hell, he ditches Sunday school. Big Jim further disappoints Jimmy and June by standing with the Catholic Church and refusing to admit Nana is in Heaven. Only the presence of Big Jim's lively merchant marine brother, Tom heartens the family by placating the warring spouses and teaching Jimmy how to box.
Frustrated by Big Jim's smoking, drinking and complacency, June is tempted by Bill Hastings, a successful admirer who offers her a job as a skilled seamstress. Jimmy and Benjy's moneymaking ventures slip closer and closer towards crime. After Big Jim accidentally blows himself up baking pies, a chastened Jimmy and Benjy rob a shady fireworks depot -- but only Jimmy gets caught -- because he's too afraid to escape across a railroad trestle. Uncle Tom rescues the shamed Jimmy and pays off the fireworks people.
A still-bandaged Big Jim sheepishly forgives Jimmy's theft, then uses the stolen fireworks in a homemade Fourth of July display. The backyard show erupts into a comic disaster, when exploding tomatoes shower the many neighbors gathered in the Houlihan garden.
Big Jim's public humiliation is all too much for June. She packs her bags and grabs the angry Jimmy, who in the confusion, bicycles away with his Cooperstown money, bound for a life of his own. After Big Jim and June discover Jimmy has run away, they temporarily make up to search for their son.
That night, Jimmy's campfire roars out of control and traps the frightened boy. But just in time, the determined Big Jim tracks down his son and ultimately saves him -- by talking the panicked Jimmy across a rickety railroad trestle to escape the growing flames. Deep in the Massachusetts woods, the Houlihan family reconciles, suddenly realizing their love for each other is far greater than their differences.
One week later, boarding a train for Cooperstown, a smiling June waves a jaunty Big Jim and Jimmy off. A bottle of ale sticks out of Big Jim's back pocket and a burning cigarette still rides in his mouth. As the train pulls out, a beaming Jimmy waves his baseball gloved hand at his mother.
"Cooperstown" is a very original, beautifully
written coming-of-age story with memorable characters,
warmth, and humor. This is a movie I'd love to see."
-Pamela Gray : Screenwriter (A Walk on the Moon, Music of the Heart )
A feature film screenplay by William Farley, Christopher Upham and Adam Keker
The 5:10 to Cooperstown
A restless boy whose larger-than-life father has a predilection for drink and setting things on fire, discovers that a parent's love can be greater than their weaknesses.