Major League (1989)

The first thing that you need to know about Major League is that it’s full of clichés. So full of them in fact, that if you wanted to instruct a course on how to make a film that’s only purpose is to entertain, not surprise, then you could show Major League and just say to follow exactly what it did. If you, even once, are surprised while watching it, you probably need to see more movies, or are just oblivious enough for it to feel fresh. If it’s a case of the latter, you are a lucky person, because any movie must feel new and fresh to you.

Kicking off these clichés is the premise of the story. The Cleveland Indians have been a terrible team for some time, and the owner, Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) has decided that she wants to move the team to Miami. She decides to only hire bad players in hopes that the team will lose all of the time, and she’ll be justified in moving them away from Cleveland. Okay, there’s a ruthless owner and there are going to be terrible players. Cliché numbers one and two, check!

At spring training, we meet the players that she picked out. Well, not all of them, because one of those invited was actually dead. What does she care though, right? Our leads are a veteran catcher (Tom Berenger), a rookie pitcher (Charlie Sheen), someone who didn’t even get an invitation to spring training but showed up anyway, and proved that he is fast enough to play (Wesley Snipes), and the team’s manager (James Gammon). The team is made of people who have no business playing baseball, because all of them have glaring flaws, whether it be the fact that they can’t aim their pitches, can’t play defense, or can’t bat. Cliché number 3, a bunch of random people on a sports team, check!

Once the regular season begins, we get to find out how bad they really are. If I remember correctly, they lose their first game 7-0, and subsequent games are lost in a similar fashion. But, if you’ve been paying attention, (and likely even if you haven’t), you’ll have already figured out that they will turn it around, and end up having a dramatic final game against the very same team that crushed them earlier in the season. The only possible surprise is how the film actually ends, and whether or not the team gets to fulfill their goal of upsetting their ruthless owner. Cliché numbers 4, 5, and however many follow, check!

This cliché-ridden explanation of the plot is an excruciatingly long way of leading up to my final conclusion of Major League: All of the clichés don’t matter, because the film is good enough to overcome them. The cast work well together, making the Indians actually feel like a team. There are some practical jokes played on one another that will likely make you chuckle, especially if you’ve ever played on a sports team. The actors all seem to be having a good time, and save for a couple of key moments, don’t take themselves, or the film, too seriously.

But what would a film be without one more cliché: A love story. The catcher has been to the Major Leagues before, and eventually meets up with one of the females that he used to date. And he spends an incredible amount of time attempting to win her heart. It goes on and on and made me really bored. There are 5-minute segments that I wished to skip over, just because they had little to do with the Cleveland Indians, and more to do with introducing a female character that wasn’t portrayed as a heartless reprobate.

Something that I do feel the need to praise is how realistic a feeling the actual baseball scenes feel. I watch a lot of baseball, and the job done in recreating the feel of the game was well-done. It wasn’t going for complete replication, as the team’s broadcaster (Bob Uecker) says things that no broadcaster would ever say on-air, but that was done to keep things funny. The actual action on the field is realistic though, even if, at times, it feels like the players can’t catch a break.

Major League ultimately works, and it works fairly well. It’s full of cliché around every base, but it still is an entertaining watch. The people who made this movie get baseball, which is always a bonus for me. The Indians actually feel like a real team, the action on the field is done in a realistic fashion, and this makes it more enjoyable. If only a couple of clichés could have been left out of the film, (the sub-plot of the catcher wooing a woman in particular), then it would have been a really fun watch, instead of just a pretty good one. Regardless, I say to give it a shot, especially if you need a funny baseball movie to get you into the mood of watch real baseball.

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