A League of Their Own (1992) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for language and some adult humor Running Time: 128 min.
Cast: Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, David Stratheirn, Garry Marshall, Bill Pullman
Director: Penny Marshall
Screenplay: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
As time goes on, my fondness for A League of Their Own grows, and only a waning voice in the back of my mind keeps me from giving it the vaunted 5-star rating. Obviously, not everyone is going to like this as much as me, as you first need to have an unwavering love of baseball, and a soft spot for the sentimentality of not only the game itself, but for the nostalgia that embodies the film itself through and through. For those that have that gene, the one that tells you that baseball is the perfect game and is one of the purest pleasures in life, this is an absolute must-see, and ranks among the finest films about the game ever. It's also one of the most heartwarming, crowd-pleasing films of the decade.
Most of the film is set during the height of World War II, 1943. Many of the major league's finest have been called to duty overseas, leaving a great void for the national pastime and the fans of the country. In order to keep the sport alive, and to seize on an opportunity to give the fans what they miss, some entrepreneurs have come together to form the All American Girls Baseball League, a small league of women baseball players from around the country. Two of these women, Dottie (Davis, Thelma & Louise) and Kit (Petty, Cadillac Man), are sisters playing for the same team during the inaugural year. Dottie's the best in the league, and Kit has forever been in her shadow, and their coach (Hanks, Joe Versus the Volcano) is a well-beloved has-been whose name recognition alone lands him the job. But the crowds aren't used to women playing baseball, and marketing the league proves an uphill battle.
Everything is top shelf in this bittersweet comedy, and it's hard to imagine this film could be improved. Much of the accolades should go to Penny Marshall (Big, Awakenings) for a superb directorial job capturing not only the feel of the game, but for the period and attitudes of the day. There's lots of little touches along the way that makes this more than just typical fare, and great character build-up which pays off well during the final scenes that will leave very few dry eyes among those who watch it.
The cast is solid, with Geena Davis doing a very credible job as the gutsy and talented Dottie, but it's Tom Hanks that steals most of the scenes he is in with one of his most memorable performances as Jimmy Dugan, the washed-up drunk who begins to wake up to realize that he still has a second chance in baseball. There are some who might balk at the film for the inclusion of Madonna (Dick Tracy, Who's That Girl?) and Rosie O'Donnell (Sleepless in Seattle, Another Stakeout), but anyone who has even an ounce of fair judgment will admit that they both do a fine job in this one, perhaps the best acting job for either of them.
I can't say enough about the look of the film either, from the newsreel footage, to the incredible replica uniforms provided by Cynthia Flynt (Eight Men Out), and the realistic cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek (Ragtime, Amadeus), both of whom worked with Penny Marshall on her previous film, Awakenings. However, it would all be for naught without Penny's passion for the film, perfectly balancing the characters and the story, and wrapping it all up with a fantastic emotional finish.
I would recommend A League of Their Own to just about anyone, young or old, male or female, baseball fan or not. It's a colorful and insightful look into a part of American history that is vastly overlooked, and even if it isn't altogether historically accurate, it will inspire people into looking into the great heroines of yesteryear on their own. For fans of the game, the stars, or just for lovers of good movies, A League of Their Own is a grand slam when it comes to entertainment.
©2003 Vince Leo