Major League

Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Rene Russo Directed by: David S. Ward

Baseball season has finally arrived!  The Reds kicked off their 2011 season by winning with a bottom-of-the 9th victory over the Brew Crew.

Speaking of other things that are associated with baseball, winning and the Brewers…your opening day movie review is Major League.  We have a film centered around a baseball team, a double dose of winning with Charlie Sheen as a pitcher who helps the team have an awesome season, and Brewers announcer Bob Uecker as the play-by-play announcer for a the miserable Cleveland Indians.

This gem from 1989 introduces the viewer to an Indians team on a 30+ year streak of pennant-less seasons.  When the team’s owner dies and leaves the team to his young ex-showgirl wife, she takes over with relish.  However, what she’s relishing is a clause in the ownership contract that allows her to move the team if attendance falls below a certain level.  So she does her best to invite pretty much only the ‘has beens and never wills’ to Spring Training.

A jumble of minor-leaguers, longshot rookies, a crusty coach, a prima donna contract player and an eccentric slugger make up the team.  Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) is a catcher with questionable knees who is trying to make the most of what could be his last shot at the majors and at proving to his ex-girlfriend Lynn (Rene Russo) that he can act like an adult.  Their storyline is pretty much the only serious element in the film.

To carry the baseball metaphor further, humor in Major League is mostly ‘small ball’ – lots of little laughs, few fall-out-of-your-seat zingers.  Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) starts the movie in prison and throws the baseball hard, but not well.  His lack of accuracy is kind of funny, as is his temper tantrum after getting ejected from a game.  However, Carlos Zambrano makes him look like an amateur.  What’s really funny – Charlie Sheen wearing Rec Specs.   Just the accessory every warrior assassin should have, right?

The eccentric Cuban and Voodoo follower Pedro Serrano (Dennis Haysbert, aka the Allstate guy) crushes fastball pitches but has trouble hitting anything else.  His elaborate shrine with offerings (rum, cigars, fried chicken), rituals to ward off getting cut from the team and chants to make his bat less afraid of curveballs are pretty funny. If I recall correctly, the absurdity of his rituals get even funnier in Major League II

Wesley Snipes is the uninvited spring training crasher Willie Mays Hayes.  Though he’s fast, has tremendous base stealing potential and does a really humorous 80s-style dance after making them team, he really can’t hit well at first – which crusty coach Lou Brown (James Gammon) attempts to fix by having Hayes do 20 pushups every time he hits the ball anywhere but to the ground. He’s not the only one that has trouble with the game; in the first few outings their fielding is also in very sad shape.

The Indians radio announcer, Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker), does his play-by-play with the help of Jack Daniel and sometimes fakes crowd noise to make it seem like there are people at the games.

A few running gags with Cleveland citizens, the grounds crew and a die-hard contingent of drum-beating fans also provide the laughs.  (Also funny because there is actually some person who goes to a Cleveland Indians games and bangs a drum…at least he was there when I went to an Indians game at Progressive Field).

All in all a very enjoyable film if you:

  • Really need a baseball fix, regardless of the season
  • Get a kick out of goofy play-by-play-->whether it’s “He needs a hit like I need a ham sandwich and a cold one” or “He’s going to hit it right down broadway, and then I need two orders of funnel fries – some for night, and some for midnight.”
  • Are even a little bit obsessed with Charlie Sheen.

so put it in the queue!

However, if you:

  • Prefer the ridiculous and over-the-top modern approach to comedies
  • Don’t like baseball
  • Don’t have tiger blood

Don’t put it in the queue.

(Though Ryan assures me the Indians were good in the recent past, my perception of them will probably always be going to a game in Cleveland 2008, seeing Cliff Lee pitch extremely well (duh), then watching the relief pitching give up a lot of runs as the fans gave a collective groan of disgust and left the game early).

Written by Jennifer Venson