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Running Time: 106 minutes
Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Margaret Whitton, James Gammon, Rene Russo and Bob Uecker
Written and Directed by: David S. Ward
Retail Price: $24.99
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (17 Scenes)
Released: September 24th, 2002
"Just enjoy the movie, it has Tom Berenger!" ~ Seymour Skinner, The Simpsons
As far as how valid you want to make of Principal Skinner's quote, thankfully, "Major League" has a lot more to enjoy than the likes of Tom Berenger. When it comes down to it though, I think sports movies are pretty hard to make (same goes for comedy as well). I believe it's the fact that sports are so universal, so mainstream and basically accessiable to anyone. There can be quite a broadness to reach a lot of people, but if you don't succeed, especially in a comedy, you fall. And you fall hard. There has to be some nice balance between the characters, the story and the sports action itself.
"Major League" offers a strikingly refreshing approach to the "sports comedy" genre. After an opening montage of that wonderful city Cleveleand spruced with bits on how hard the baseball team the Indians suck, the new owner, Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton), a former showgirl, wants to move the team to Miami since she's not a big fan of Cleveland. Still, it's not as easy as she anticipates. In order to do such a thing, she needs to get very low attendance for the season. Her plan? Get a horrendous team so none will come and watch them.
She and her partner Charlie Donovan (Charles Cypher) end up rounding up a few interesting ballclub members: a catcher with knee problems, an excellent pitcher, a great runner but a poor hitter, an outfielder with a love of voodoo and a third baseman who's more interested in promoting products than baseball itself. As you'd expect, the team is pretty bad. But once they learn of Rachel's plan, some motivation is unveiled and they set out to win the division title.
It's not perfect, but as far as a crowdpleasing comedy goes (not to mention if you're a baseball fan), "Major League" is a tough film to beat. David S. Ward (Oscar® winner for the classic "The Sting"), knows the game well enough and certainly has a knack for creating quirky yet believable characters. Ward's directing style, especially in the baseball sequences, is very good. The pace of the film is fast, but each scene works quite well and adds up for a good total. Ward also isn't afraid to pack some tiny bits of drama throughout.
The film is genuinely funny too. A lot of this works because of the characters Ward created for the team and that they're all so unique. Still, the laughs mainly come from some interesting exchances (can Jesus hit a curveball?), funny one-liners and a good deal of physical comedy. James Newtwon Howard also provides a nice score to supplement all of this. The film is also well edited so the action in the baseball scenes never becomes confusing.
The acting also does shine. Wesley Snipes' smooth talking is also pretty amusing, Charlie Sheen's "wild" antics can be fun, Tom Berenger is his usual Berenger-likeself, Margaret Whitton is entertaining as she is sly but I still think the film belongs to Corbin "The Dentist" Bernsen. I don't know, I guess it's just something about his performance which strikes me as somewhat uncanny and quite entertaining. Still, in the end, "Major League" is a definitive 1980s flick, a definitive sports flick (there's a nice emphasis on sports throughout... I mean, it is quite the focus) and a definitive comedy. If you want some laughs, it's worth catching.
It's not perfect, but "Major League" sports a pretty good transfer. It's actually rather sharp and sports fine detail, with very strong fleshtones and accurate as well as bold color saturation. The main problems here confide within that there is an abundance of edge halos, noise, dirt pieces, scratches, blemishes and little marks. They're all over, and it is quite distracting. Though on the plus side, I believe this is the first time the film's been presented in widescreen (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen on this release to be exact) since its theatrical release. In the end, it does hold up pretty well.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is also pretty good. There are some pretty good surrounds in the baseball scenes and with the songs, providing a decent and worthy ambiance. James Newton Howard's score also provides a nice sense of warmth. Still, I found it to be pretty heavy in the front channels, but there is nice use of the subwoofer throughout. Dialogue is crisp and clear too, and there is no distortion. Overall, it's a solid but predictable mix with a few curves (no pun intended) here and there. Also included are English subtitles, English closed captions, a French mono track and an English Dolby Surround track.
One of the most cherished sports and 1980s films gets jilted in this department. That sucks. And I'm also sure it sucks to be Tom Berenger (no offense, Tom).
"Major League" still holds up pretty well as a sports film and as a comedy all these years later, but unfortuantly, the DVD release is not as good as one would hope for. Despite its popularity, the DVD gets no supplements. Still, the transfer and 5.1 remix are pretty nice. It's worth to revisit via rental, but unless you're a die hard fan of the film and need the DVD, it's hard to reccomend with a whole heart because of the steep retail price.