Major League (1989) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for some sexual humor and language
Running Time: 107 min.

Cast: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, James Gammon, Rene Russo, Margaret Whitton, Wesley Snipes, Charles Cyphers, Chelcie Ross, Dennis Haysbert, Andy Romano, Bob Uecker, Steve Yeager, Pete Vuckovich
David S. Ward
Screenplay: David S. Ward
Review published December 21, 2006

Major League is meant to make you laugh, pure and simple.  Baseball is merely the platform for some funny hijinks, but these characters could have been plugged into any sport and it would have been practically the same movie.  It's a bit of a formula, where some very eccentric players get put on the same team, showing no teamwork initially, only to realize how much they have grown to like each other in the end.  We've all seen this kind of sports movie so many times, but if there's a good reason why one of them gets made every few years, it's because it works.  We like the characters, and we like how they make fun of each other.  We like them so much, that we want them to win in the end, which they always inevitably do.  Major League isn't a great film, but it is largely entertaining and often funny, and that's about the best you can ask for in a sports comedy.

The film makes good use of the fact that the Cleveland Indians hadn't (at that time) won a pennant since the beginning of the century.  Now that the owner has died, his ex-showgirl wife (Whitton, Nine 1/2 Weeks) has taken over the team, but she hates being in Cleveland.  She sees an opportunity to movie the team to Miami if they can draw less than 800,000 paid attendance for the year, and she intends for them to do just that by picking a minor league manager to choose from a crop of "has-been and never-will-be" candidates to ensure that the team spends the season in the cellar.  Among the players is a washed-up catcher with bad knees (Berenger, Butch & Sundance: The Early Days), a high-heat pitcher with almost no control (Sheen, Young Guns), a high-priced star with no desire to get injured by going all-out (Bernsen, The Great White Hype), a voodoo-practicing clean-up hitter that can't make contact with a breaking ball (Haysbert, Mr. Baseball), and a fast-running lead-off man who has no talent for hitting (Snipes, Blade). 

To properly enjoy Major League, you have to overlook some obvious contrivances in the comedy, and some strange logic in the plot.  For instance, to make the team worse, many of the players could have easily been benched or sent to the minors once they looked like they may start getting good, which the owner could have done at any time.  Also, once the team hit the point where it seemed likely that their attendance was well over the 800,000 mark, negating the proposition of moving the team to Miami, it would be in the owner's best interests to root for the team to win the pennant, since she would be able to sell the team at a much higher price, especially since she has no desire to own a baseball team in the first place.  Berenger's character, Jake, is the catcher with bad knees, and would definitely not be batting second in the line-up on any team.  These are just a few of the things you have to swallow down, and if you can, it's a worthwhile watch.

Major League is definitely recommended to sports movie junkies, and of course for those who love baseball.  It's silly, stupid, but very likeable.  Not a home run, but definitely a hit.

-- Followed by Major League II (1994), and Major League: Back to the Minors (1998)

Qwipster's rating

©2006 Vince Leo