Major League (1989)

major league


This is still a funny movie for me. I love baseball anyway, so a movie about the sport I love would not have to try very hard to entertain me, but Major League was even able to make my baseball novice wife chuckle a few times, so I will call that a victory for sports films everywhere.

Major League is the story of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Their owner has just passed away leaving the team to his bitchy trophy wife (Margaret Whitton). She has designs on moving the team to sunny Florida (hard to believe this was made during a time before there were not one but two baseball teams in Florida). She can only get out of her team’s contract in Cleveland if their attendance drops to a certain number. She sets out to assemble a motley crew of players so bad that no fan will want to pay money to see these guys play. Fielding a team including a geriatric former all-star catcher, Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger); the fielding challenged third baseman Roger Dorn (Corbin Berenson); just released from a correctional facility pitcher, Rick ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn (Charlie Sheen); a voodoo worshipping outfielder (Dennis Haysbert); and the speedy but can’t hit Willy Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), this group of nobodies will try to become a team of somebodies and stop their horrible boss from getting her way by winning a few games and bringing the crowds back to the ballpark.

Major League is a funny film, but obviously I will be enjoying it more than most due to the fact it is about baseball. There are several inside jokes that only a fan would get, but there is enough enjoyment here to entertain a casual fan as well. The film cemented Charlie Sheen as a star. He was definitely the highlight of the film for me as loose cannon Ricky Vaughn, who has control issues early, only to find he can correct it with some simple spectacles and an eyesight test.

One question I have about this film is how did they ever decide that the Cleveland Indians should be the team these guys play for? It just seems odd that they would go with that team over any of the others. I wonder if Cleveland had some say or made it worth the filmmaker’s while to have the team based in Cleveland. I am sure there is an answer to this question, and much the answer would be about money, but it certainly worked. The Cleveland team used the popularity of this movie as a springboard to on field success, becoming one of the more dominant sides of the mid-90s. Some of that popularity would have been due to the appeal of Ricky Vaughn and his crew of losers, I’m sure.

Major League is a funny comedy about baseball, and it doesn’t really need to be anything more to entertain me for 90 minutes.

Rating: B

Major League is so 80s. Tom Berenger and Corbin Bernsen were big stars, Charlie Sheen wasn’t a complete douche, that stupid “Chief Wahoo” logo is all over the place…

So this is your typical sports comedy. The team sucks, and if they don’t change that something terrible will happen. This time around the team is the Cleveland Indians, who must have a great sense of humor because they really weren’t great at the time and suffered some of the problems fictionalized in Major League. (Actually, the MLB in general must be good sports, given that several teams allowed the use of their uniforms and logos throughout the movie.) The terrible fate they face is being moved to Miami and getting a nice new stadium. This actually doesn’t sound so bad to me. There’s no snow in Miami, and apparently their stadium did suck. But I suppose from a business standpoint no city wants to lose its professional sports team and the more loyal players would certainly cultivate some hometown pride after years with a franchise. Whatever.

No sports film is complete without a villain. The ragtag Indians of Major League are not only up against the teams in their division, though. They are also combatting their new owner, a former showgirl who inherited the team from her deceased husband. That’s right– the sabotage is coming from inside the stadium!!! Her plan is to assemble a team so horrible, that game attendance dips below the league’s minimum, freeing her up to move the team. Of course, this backfires. But not before a lot of near misses, strike outs, and runs given up.

Major League is pretty entertaining, even if it is by the book. The only bit that bothers me is the characterization of the owner. I don’t really get why the new owner must be a rich widow. As if a male owner wouldn’t pull the same shenanigans to get a team moved? Of course, a male owner wouldn’t allow for the delightful plot point of slowly revealing a nude photo of the owner to motivate the team. I remember watching this as a young child and thinking that was weird. I still do, but for very different reasons.

Rating: B-

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