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MAJOR LEAGUE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Margaret Whitton, James Gammon, Rene Russo, Bob Uecker
Director: David S. Ward
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: April 10, 2007

“I need a catcher, Jake, somebody who can lead this team on the field. So, I want the absolute truth here. Are you 100%?”?

“Yeah, would I bullsh*t you about something like that?”

“You better, if you wanna make this team.”

Film ***

In the realm of sports comedies, Major League has long been a favorite of mine. True, the movie may follow a familiar and predictable formula, which consists of a ragtag group of underdogs who strive to win in the midst of losing, and all is achieved in the end. However, the laughs in the movie are countless and funny, and are more than enough for two movies-worth of chuckles.

It’s no Bull Durham, a better baseball comedy that had a mature sense to it, but Major League isn’t intended to be mature, in fact, it loves being immature in its hijinks, and that’s one of the pleasures of it. The movie has no less than Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen for its lead stars. Gosh, the last time we saw these two actors on the screen (Platoon) they were at each other’s throats. So it is kind of nice to see the two back in a much gentler and lighter tone.

The movie depicts a hugely bad time for the Cleveland Indians, who are predicted to finish the season dead last. The owner of the franchise has passed away, leaving the team in the hands of the ruthless Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) who presents her own list of requested players who are way past their prime, or never had one in the first place. She plans to assemble a team of players that guarantee a season in dead last position so that she can relocate the team franchise to Miami.

The players include Jake Taylor (Berenger), a has been catcher, Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), a felon who happens to have a pretty good throwing arm, Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen) a snotty businessman and outfielder who can’t stand the idea of risking his sight when diving into the ground, Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), who plays like Mays and runs like Hayes, and Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), who conducts various acts of voodoo before hitting the field as a sign of good luck. Selected to manage the team is Lou Brown (James Gammon), a tire salesman whose response when asked if he liked this higher paying gig is “Umm…I don’t know.”

Training is a pain in the butt for the new recruits, but once the season kicks into high gear, the Indians prove the new owner that they aren’t as outstandingly bad as they were thought to be. The city of Cleveland, who hasn’t displayed much interest in the sour team over the last several years, finally garners interest in their team once they begin a solid streak, thus leading up to your basic climatic “big game” finale.

As mentioned before, the plot is formulaic, but the laughs are plentiful and come hurling faster than your fastest speedball. The whole cast, especially Berenger, Sheen, and a young looking Wesley Snipes in one of his first big roles, shine in their comic roles. Another standout is Bob Uecker, an actual former baseball pro, in the role of the Indians broadcast announcer Harry Doyle, who has most of the movie’s funniest lines.

Major League will not enhance your brain waves by any means, but as a simple-minded comedy, it hits a grand slam out of the park.

Video **1/2

Paramount has delivered a more than acceptable anamorphic transfer that shows a slight bit of age in some instances, but overall is better than what you might expect from a thirteen year old movie. The baseball sequences standout the most in terms of picture quality, tones, colors and sharp imaging. Several scenes in between those sequences, however, suffer a bit of image softness, but nothing incredibly distracting.

Audio **1/2

A moderate enough audio job of a mostly dialogue-oriented comedy. The 5.1 track on Major League is given and extra ½ star on account of the strength of the game scenes, which provide nice dynamic range including that of crowd noise and music. Other than that, dialogue is heard in a mostly clear tone.

Features ***1/2

Great to see this release receiving the full Special Edition treatment. Paramount has delivered a fine roster of extras for this new Wild Thing Edition. Included is a commentary track with writer/director David S. Ward and producer Chris Chessner, some intriguing featurettes including “My Kinda Team”, which covers the making of the film, “A Major League Look at Major League”, which offers the actual Cleveland Indians baseball team’s perspective on the movie, “Bob Uecker: Just a Bit Outside” takes a look at the sportsman/comedian’s career. Also featured is A Tour of Cerrano’s Locker, an Alternate Ending with optional commentary, and a Photo Gallery.  Plus, the packaging is quite cool…love the baseball grass slip cover!

Summary:

Batter up for a Wild Thing of a sports comedy. Major League is back and better than ever in this new Special Edition release. With baseball season about to get under way, there couldn’t be a better time to revisit the mother of all baseball comedies!

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