Review: Major League (1989)

major league

A catcher as the two hitter, as if!

Written By: David S. Ward
Directed By: David S. Ward

There are lots of glaring flaws in Major League. The main characters are barely developed. The humor is really, really crass. The film moves far too slowly through moments that don’t matter, and speeds through the moments that do matter. They have a catcher with bad knees who can barely run hitting in the two hole and have a pitcher who starts, relieves, and does everything in between whenever the script feels he’s needed. All of these are problems that should plague the film and make for a pretty bad experience in every regard.

That’s not the case with Major League, it overcomes its flaws and then some. The reason for this is simple, it’s honest in its intentions. It doesn’t hide that it’s predictable, that it’s not logically placing its characters in situations, it embraces its crassness, and it takes into account how shallow its characters are. Major League takes all of its flaws and turns them into strengths. That’s why this film has always been, and remains, a favorite of mine. I grew up watching Major League, and I was very scared that revisiting it all these years later would reveal a memory fueled only by nostalgia.

The end sequence of Major League is a great discussion point for how the film overcomes its flaws. When Willie Mays Hayes gets on base the film focuses on his attempt to steal a base. There’s no real reason why we should care about his attempt to steal a base. We know it will help the team and that it’s clearly an important moment in the film as far as the ultimate intentions of the film are concerned. But, the character of Willie hasn’t been developed in any way. He’s a guy who runs fast, that’s all that we know about him. Yet, in that moment that is all that matters and that’s why the film moves past Willie’s flawed character development. There nothing but Willie stealing the base and what that means for the team we are watching.

On the other end of the spectrum is Jake Taylor, who we have spent some time with. We know that he’s near the end of his last hurrah in baseball. He’s a has been, and a never will be again. This is his shining moment, when he can be the hero. But, he doesn’t do the heroic thing to be a hero, he does the everyman thing. His actions represent his end, his final sacrifice for his team. It’s through his action in the final sequence that we learn everything we need to about the character of Jake Taylor. Tom Berenger’s character may have started off shallow, but in the final sequence Jake was given meaning and heft that cements his status in the film that came before.

There’s something else going for Major League, it’s a comedy that is very funny. The jokes and bits are all easy, but they are pulled off so as to create a hilarious picture. If I wasn’t laughing out loud I was chuckling, and for my money that’s the sign of a great comedy. This is, again, an indicator of how the film overcomes its weaknesses. Major League should not be so funny, it is far too crass and easy to be as funny as it is. Because of its honest intentions, its desire to be funny, the film ends up being funny. Honesty in intention can go a long way when it comes to delivering a quality product.

My memories were not ruined, and I can gladly still proclaim Major League to be a great film. It’s funny, energetic and earnest in an honest fashion. My wife didn’t enjoy Major League anywhere near as much as I did, so maybe nostalgia did play a role in my outlook on the film. As much as nostalgic remembrance is a possibility, I don’t think it holds true when it comes to Major League. The film has many, many issues, but it consistently overcomes those issues with a belief in its story that is one of the signs of a well made film. Of course, the subject of the film really should have been my Chicago Cubs, but that’s yet another flaw that I can easily overlook when it comes to Major League.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: Major League (1989)

  1. This is one of my favorite films ever. I just love the dialogue and how crass some of it is. Even some of antics that occur is still funny. A true classic in every sense of the word. “Yo bartender, Jobu needs a refill!”

  2. It’s the same thing with me, no matter how many times I watch this movie it never gets old.

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