Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Major League (1989)

There’s something about a comeback/underdog story that everyone can relate to.  We’ve all had situations where we were really bad at something, yet had the desire to be much better.  Maybe you’ve wished you could draw realistic pictures.  Perhaps you’ve wished you had a voice that could win Grammys or thought you could act your way through any movie or commercial they could throw at you.

Major League isn’t about any baseball team.  It’s about the worst baseball team in Major League Baseball which, in the movie’s universe, is the Cleveland Indians.  The team is owned by Rachel Phelps, who inherited it from her husband.  She’d like to move the team to Miami, but there’s that pesky contract with Cleveland.  She can’t just up and move.  I suppose she could sell the team, but that would be too easy.  Instead, she decides to use an escape clause.  If attendance falls below a certain point, she can get out of the contract.

To accomplish this, Phelps decides to rid the team of any player with talent.  She finds all sorts of players that should never see their way onto the field.  Some are good players, but are close to retirement.  Catcher Jake Taylor has knee issues.  Most aren’t good players.  Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, for instance, is actually in prison when they try to recruit him.  He has a great arm, but seems to lack control over where the ball goes.

Managing the team is Lou Brown, who managed a minor league team.  It’s his job to make the bunch of losers and has-beens into a working team, or so Phelps would have him believe.  The better he does better, the worse she makes things for the team.  When they start winning, she takes away things like hot water or replaces a functional jet with a rundown plane.

When it comes to Brown’s attention what Phelps is doing, Brown tells the team.  This gives the team motivation to win as many games as they can so that they might get into the playoffs.  Which they do.  All the while, attendance climbs until The Indians are playing sold out games.  In the end, Phelps is denied her easy exit to the contract.

The Indian’s players are all actors.  (Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger play Vaughn and Taylor, respectively.)  However, there are a good number of actual baseball players making cameos throughout the game.  Since the movie was released nearly 30 years ago, I’m not sure how recognizable man of the players are.  (I’m not a big baseball fan, so it’s difficult for me to judge how recognizable any of the players are.)

You don’t necessarily have to like baseball to enjoy the movie.  Most of the humor is derived from making the team work.  A lot of the players are at odds with each other.  One worships a deity named Jobu whereas another is Christian.  Several teammates don’t want to discourage offerings to Jobu, but can’t bring themselves to allow the sacrifice of an actual live chicken.

There are certain things you can assume about the movie.  I don’t feel bad mentioning that they do better the further along the movie goes.  It’s a comedy in which a baseball team ended the previous season dead last and the new owner wants them to do worse.  The announcer curses during a broadcast because he knows no one is listening.  Of course, they’re going to make it to the top.  That’s the way these things work.

On that note, you can also assume that it’s not exactly meant for children.  Probably the most objectionable part would be grown men standing around a locker room.  So, yeah.  You might want to hold off on letting your kids watch until they’re teenagers at least.

This is one of those movies that Comedy Central puts in its rotation every now and again.  It does seem to hold up over the years as it’s still relatable.  Many of the jokes are still funny.  I think the only thing that might be dated, aside from the other teams’ players, might be the stadiums’ advertising.  If you can catch it on Netflix, go for it.

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