Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on April 7, 1989
Directed by David S. Ward
Written by David S. Ward
Cast: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Margaret Whitton, Wesley Snipes, Rene Russo, James Gammon, Charles Cyphers, Chelcie Ross, Dennis Haysbert, Andy Romano, Bob Uecker, Steve Yeager, Pete Vukovich, Willie Mueller
Over the years, I’ve never really given this baseball comedy the credit it’s deserved, and after watching it again recently—in fact, for the first time since I saw it in theaters—I now wonder why I’ve always felt so hostile towards it. At the time, I remember being bitterly disappointed with the end result, after I’d gone in with such high hopes and expectations; not just because it was a baseball-themed movie, but because it was written and directed by David S. Ward, the man who fifteen years earlier penned one of my favorite movies ever, The Sting. This time around, however, I had a blast.
In a way, the story was like a grown-up version of The Bad News Bears, with a rag-tag collection of cast-offs and under-achievers brought together to make a surprising run for the pennant; here, the players were hand-picked for their mediocrity to play for the new owner of the Cleveland Indians, a former Vegas showgirl whose intention was to lose ballgames, hopefully activating a low-attendance clause that would allow her to move the team to sunny Florida. After getting wind of this scheme, the players banded together and began to play winning baseball, to not only prove to themselves and other teams their worth, and to make a run at the division crown, but to keep the team and its players from disbanding by season’s end.
I was surprised that, along with the typically foul but amusing player antics and dialogue, there were some smart, baseball-savvy moments presented as well, a trait I too often find lacking in baseball comedies of this sort. The game scenes were well-rendered and realistic—okay, so that’s Milwaukee County Stadium, and not actually Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, that we see during home games—and Ward kept the locker room and on-field action interesting and moving forward, with a script that was peppered with everything baseball…including real-life announcer Bob Uecker offering humorous commentary throughout the games-in-progress, a wonderful stroke of genius by the filmmakers.
Most of the actors did fine as players, especially Charlie Sheen, whose pitching skills and ‘Mad Hungarian’ act were a highlight for me, but Tom Berenger’s irritating side-story romance with Rene Russo seemed forced, and took too much time away from the ballpark. The finale was a good one, and you truly didn’t know which way it was going to end: a Tribe win, or a season-ending loss? So, after all that, what were my thoughts on the film today? Well, I don’t know what thorn was up my backside in 1989, but at this point in time I found Major League to be not only a fun and entertaining baseball film, and a surprisingly good comedy, but after you peel away the hijinks, a believable representation of life in the major leagues. (8/10)