Plot: What’s it about?
As World War II continues to escalate, the draft in America forces countless young men to leave behind their homes. As these men defend the world’s freedoms, they leave behind farms, business offices, and even careers in professional sports. The world of baseball is hit hard, with a lot of the players drafted to serve. This worries the men who run the sport, as it could force them to close down the leagues. A temporary issue on the surface, but when the men return and the nation recovers, the sport could be lost. So a solution is needed, some method to maintain baseball’s place in peoples’ minds, without the need for the drafted players. The answer is the All American Girls Baseball League, which is formed by several owners of professional clubs. An open call for players is tossed out, which results in a tidal wave of applicants. Some want to play to take their mind off of world events, others just want to make some money, and some just want to show off their skills and have some fun. One woman who tries out is Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), who is joined by her sister, both of whom are solid athletes. As the league opens and finds its place, the women have to cope with new issues and problems. Can the league survive and keep baseball alive, or will the new league fizzle out?
The original release of A League of Their Own was lackluster, but we all know how Columbia loves to revisit old titles. So now we have a new two disc Special Edition, which sports an enhanced visual treatment and a slew of supplements. The movie itself is much better than it should be, thanks to a gifted cast that rises to the challenge. The writing is more than decent, but the material falls into melodrama often, which can be a curse. But in this case, the cast is loaded with talent and since all the performers are up to the task, it all works out well. In many instances, the film would come off as manipulative and thin, but the strength of the cast keeps it solid. Even so, A League of Their Own is a melodramatic and predictable, but it is also harmless. I expected a total bore when I first the saw the film, but it comes off as enjoyable. Not a great movie or even that good, but a decent movie that turns out better than it should have. Then again, with Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Bill Pullman, Jon Lovitz, Madonna, and others, all of whom seem to connect well with the material, its no wonder the movie is so passable. I can recommend the movie without hesitation, to fans of traditional dramas, but don’t expect a classic. Columbia’s new Special Edition is well crafted also, so even if you own the original disc, this release is worthwhile.
He has won two Best Actor Oscars, back to back no less, but that doesn’t mean Tom Hanks is above less than acclaimed projects. After all, Hanks got his start on the low brow television series Bosom Buddies, then made his name in a series of enjoyable, but basic comedies. In those comedies, he was at ease and his natural presence added a lot to the material, so the laughs were heartfelt, not forced. He remained a less than high profile star however, until he blended his comedic skills into roles in more dramatic pictures. After the smash hit Big, Hanks became a real star and hasn’t seemed to slow down since. Of course, he has since become one of the most acclaimed actors of his time, both in the field of comedic and dramatic roles. A lot of actors make the movie from comic films to more serious ones, but most find minimal success. Hanks has won over critics and audiences in both realms, a rare feat indeed. But as he shows from time to time, he is not above returning to his roots and his comic skills still shine. Other films with Hanks include Cast Away, Bachelor Party, The Green Mile, Apollo 13, and Sleepless in Seattle. The cast also includes Geena Davis (Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise), Lori Petty (Prey for Rock & Roll, The Glass Shield), and Jon Lovitz (Small Time Crooks, The Wedding Singer).
Video: How does it look?
A League of Their Own is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a full frame version included on the disc’s flip side. This is the same print used in the original release, but the advances in DVD have yielded an improved presentation. The print is clean like before, with mild debris and no serious complications. But this time, we have a more detailed and refined image, so depth is enhanced. In other words, the visuals shine here and look much more impressive, with not even a hint of softness. I expected a recycled treatment here, so kudos to Columbia for giving us an improved presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
This movie has little in terms of dynamic audio, but the included Dolby Digital 4.0 option is better than you might think. After all, this is a baseball movie and as such, that means some solid potential is out there. The park atmosphere, with all the fans and background noise, can put you right in the middle of all the action. Not as immersive as sports films, but for a dialogue driven picture, the total experience is a nice one. The crack of the bat, the ball pounding into the mitts, the loud calls of the umpire, it all sounds terrific here. No worries with music either, as the soundtrack has enough life to add some depth to the session. The dialogue is clean and audible throughout also, with no muffled vocals or harshness to mention. This release also includes a French language track, as well as English subtitles, just in case.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release starts off with an audio commentary with director Penny Marshall, who is joined by several of the film’s stars. The session is a nice mixture of technical information and candid memories, which makes for a terrific listen. Nine Memorable Innings is a new documentary, but it feels more like a lot of pieces, as opposed to a whole. So a lot of ground is covered, but not enough to stand out. You can also view some deleted scenes, watch a Madonna music video, check out some talent files, and scan the film’s theatrical trailer.