Plot: What’s it about?
When I go down my list of all-time favorite movies, two are always at the top. The ever-popular Caddyshack and this little gem from the late 1980’s are always number 1 and 2 (respectively). Granted, the formula has been done so many times before that it’s now a cliche, but it worked better here for some reason. The cast was talented and even provided a launching pad for three of today’s better-known actors. Rene Russo, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes all got their start in this movie and have since gone onto successful movie careers. Add to the formula Corbin Bernsen, Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen (re-teaming from their Platoon days) and you have a cast of top-notch stars. Major League, like so many others like it (Slap shot, The Mighty Ducks and Necessary Roughness), take a group of hopelessly incompatible people and put them in a predicament (in this case, the Cleveland Indians are in danger of losing their franchise and having it relocated it to Miami) and watch them all come together as a team. What seemed to work with this film is the fact that it was all true (in the sense of the game). At the time, the Indians were the worst team around, something that has drastically changed almost since the movie came out. After a few Division titles and a World Series appearance, there really isn’t a point to poking fun at the Indians anymore, but at the time it was perfect.
The plot of the film is rather simple, but its the characters that make it work. The owner of the Cleveland Indians has died and his ex-showgirl wife now has control of the team. The Indians, true to form, haven’t had a winning season in 15 years and she’s hoping to put together a team so bad (bear in mind the team is already bad) that it will drive attendance down even further and she can get out of the lease with the city. This will, in turn, open up the team to relocate to Miami where she can live like a queen. The film eerily predicts the expansion boom of the 1990’s when baseball wasn’t in places like Arizona and Florida. As mentioned above, the central cast of characters make this film work. Rich Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) has to be let out of prison to play, an ex-All Star, Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) is called up from the Mexican league and the manager of the team is the manger of a tire plant (Tire World). Truly a group of misfits! This, however, is only half the team. Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) has defected from Cuba to practice his religion, Voodoo and he clashes with the seemingly “normal” guy in the bunch, Harris (Chelcie Ross) whose devout Christianity is a source of tension with Cerrano. Lastly, Willie Mays Hays (Wesley Snipes) gets on the team just by showing up at camp…uninvited!
From here we can essentially assume what will happen next. As the resources of the team are slowly getting cut off (presumably because the team losing), the team learns of the owner’s plan to relocate the team to Miami. Needless to say, they’re all pretty ticked and they figure the best way to get back at her is to win every game they can. In one of the better sequences (to me, anyway) the team goes on an incredible winning streak and ends up in the playoffs against, you guessed it, the New York Yankees. Another thing I liked was the fact that they used real teams as I always find it not so believable when teams like the “Sharks” play the “Bears” (i.e. Any Given Sunday). While Major League might not be the greatest movie around, it’s one of my personal favorites. If you’re a baseball fan, odds are that you’ve already seen it and the only thing that really slows the film down is the romance between Tom Berenger and Rene Russo. Aside from that, Bob Uecker (as Harry Doyle) steals the show and I really can’t recommend this film more.
Video: How does it look?
This appears to be a new transfer from the previous DVD, or my DVD player and TV are just better than what I had when this movie first came to disc. “Major League” is shown in a very attractive 1.85:1 anamorphic image. The baseball games look good and most take place during the day, save for the “big” game which takes place at night. I didn’t pick up on any edge enhancement and contrast seemed strong and well-balanced too. Black levels are right on target and flesh tones seemed normal. There’s nothing to really make this stand out as being one of the best transfers out there, but there’s nothing to criticize it for either. Any true fan of the movie should be more than pleased with how this looks.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is the same Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that was present on the first DVD and there wasn’t a lot of room for improvement. Dialogue prevails as the most dominant source of sound and it’s very clean and well-balanced. There are some good examples of surround sound, particularly during the baseball scenes. The fans cheering and the “Wild Thing” song are some of the film’s more memorable moments in regards to sound. For the most part, the sound is limited to the front stage, but then again this movie was made a few years before Dolby Digital came around and it sounds like a good upconverted mix. No complaints here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Ok, good news here. Paramount is very hit or miss with their “renamed” Special Editions (by “renamed” I’m talking about Ferris Bueller: Bueller, Bueller, Edition, Tommy Boy: Holy Schneike Edition, etc.) and some even have material that’s been removed from the original DVD. Well, in the case of this movie, it didn’t have anything to begin with so anything was an improvement. First up is a moderately informative commentary by director/writer David Ward and producer Chris Chesser who give some insight into the cast while drinking their margaritas. Yes, they actually announce that they’re drinking margaritas and during several spots you can hear them stirring them. Pretty funny, actually. I’ve seen the movie so many times, that it was nice to hear a commentary track by these two. There’s a so-called “alternate ending”, but as the Ward describes it would ruin the continuity of the movie and I won’t divulge what that is here. There are four featurettes included as well: “My Kinda Team” which takes a look at some of the key players and personalities that made the movie work. There are a few new interviews, but not of the entire cast. “A Major Look at Major League” has some interviews with current Cleveland Indians players who reflect on the film. “Bob Uecker: Just a Bit Outside” focuses on the man himself. How he was cast for the part and a pretty lengthy interview with him now. Lastly, we have a one minute feature with Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) done in character as he gives us a tour of his locker. Oh and one thing to note: someone stole Jobu, the source of Cerrano’s power. Someone literally stole the prop from Paramount and this is mentioned on the commentary track. If you know his whereabouts, let them know. On the whole, this is an easy recommendation for an upgrade and even if you own the old DVD – you’ll need to upgrade.