CATEGORY – NEW AND NOTABLE
The Movie: “Major League” IMDB
Sure, The Natural and Field of Dreams are better movies, but I double-dog-dare you to find a more quotable baseball movie than Major League–the funniest baseball film ever made (yes, including you, Bull Durham) and one of the most enjoyable sports comedies ever.
It’s wonderful, as the winter melts away (although not this year, apparently) to pop in the Major League DVD with a group of baseball fans. Part of the appeal, I guess, lies in some of its nostalgia–it comes from a time when Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and Corbin Bernsen could be considered the leads, and Wesley Snipes is supporting; it comes from a time when the Cleveland Indians were putrid, before the days of Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Robbie Alomar and a whole bunch of World-Series disasters; and it comes from a time before Dennis Haysbert played President Palmer on 24, providing Bauer-o-philes (like me) of five seasons worth of “Jobu” jokes before his unfortunate sniper-bullet necking last season.
Mostly, though, it’s just a damn funny movie, owing to its wonderful collection of characters. Leading off, there’s the moribund Cleveland Indians new owner–an ex-stripper and gold-digger who has inherited the team from her corpse of a husband, hellbent on moving the awful team out of Ohio and to St. Petersburg once the team plays bad enough. There’s the gruff AAA manger (James Gammon) she hires to let the team lose, a former tire-salesman not above urinating on a player’s contract once he refuses to take infield practice.
Oh, and we can’t forget the players, lead by aging catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) a veteran on his last legs still pursuing his ex-girlfriend (Rene Russo). Across the diamond, there’s fleet-footed center fielder Willie “Mays” Hayes (Wesley Snipes) who invites himself to spring training and wins an outfield job in his pajamas and prima donna third baseman Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), the disruptive player who had his contract yellowed.
Batting cleanup we have voodoo-worshipping Pedro Cerrano (Haysbert) who prays to a wooden idol named Jobu, clashes with Christian pitcher Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross) and thinks his bats are afraid of curveballs. The real star, though, is Rick Vaughan (Charlie Sheen), a flame-throwing pitcher late of the “California Penal” league nicknamed “Wild Thing” for his 96-MPH heater and propensity for beanballs and brawls.
It’s a real motley crew, and their escapades on and off the field as the team starts to gel and challenge for the pennant are pure, hilarious fun. Bob Uecker, the long-time Brewers play-by-play man, has a great role as the team’s Jack-swilling announcer, providing a ton of great lines (go ahead, try playing ball with college students and see who doesn’t break out his “Juuuuuuuustttt a bit outside”).
Here’s the bottom line with this film, and baseball movies in general. If you’re looking cry, try Field of Dreams. If you’re looking to be inspired, try The Natural. If you’re just looking to laugh, grab Major League. Better yet, put all three in some rain-out day and just give yourself to the majesty of America’s pastime.
THE DVD: The “Wild Thing” edition beefs up the original release, tossing in a director’s commentary, a few making-of featurettes (including a look at Bob Uecker’s fledgling career and interviews with current Cleveland Indians) and an alternate ending. Solid, and worth your $.
BUY IT! AMAZON
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