Cinema Varitek: May 2009 Archives

Before I begin, I'd like to share with you my favorite screenshot from Major League that tells you, "Yes, this movie was released in 1989."

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Thank you.

cinema.majorleague.cover.jpg Each week Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. At-bat now in Cinema Varitek: Major League, the 1989 comedy about the Indians starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon and Dennis Haysbert; written and directed by David S. Ward (who wrote Sleepless in Seattle and wrote and directed The Program). These reviews usually contain spoilers.

Whatever the premise of a movie, it still must make sense. A movie can have dogs or girls (or dogs and girls) who play baseball or it can have an asteroid about to crash into earth. The characters in the movie must react like normal human beings. The details still need to be right.

Even the little things matter. At the end of Air Bud: World Pup, Buddy fills in for an injured Brianna Scurry (as herself) a save on the final penalty kick in the 2003 Women's World Cup to win it for the U.S. I know it's a kid's movie, but: What? Buddy is a boy. He shouldn't be allowed to play in the Women's World Cup. If I were a woman, I'd be offended.

Or take Roger Ebert's review of Air Bud: Golden Receiver:

The first time Buddy runs onto the field, the announcer shouts, "It's a dog!" Don't you kinda think a play-by-play announcer in a small suburban town would recognize the golden retriever that had just won the basketball championship? A dog like that, it attracts attention.

It's a bad sign for your movie if people are walking out of the theater talking about a huge plot hole, or a mistake or the couple next to them having sex during the movie's slow parts. A filmmaker can prevent the first two. And don't dismiss a movie's flaws just because it's a kids' film or a comedy (which mainly kids watch). Kids are the only ones who watch movies without being drunk or stoned or asleep. They'll notice this stuff.

Here's where I'm going: At the end of Major League, after the Cleveland Indians win the AL East (the movie's from 1989) in a one-game playoff, the movie ends.

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There's no mention of the American League Championship Series, no mention of the playoffs. The players celebrate, the fans run on the field (again, the movie's from 1989), hey, end of movie. A movie doesn't need a 20-minute epilogue to set up the sequel like Spider-man 2, but an extra scene or two would be nice.

Major League has some funny scenes, and a couple good one-liners. And it has the Allstate spokesman/president on 24 shaving his head with a knife.

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But it also has a a montage scene that goes all the way to clip (Q). Sports movies are cliched, baseball movies perhaps more so. But that doesn't mean the every character needs to be a one-note joke. We know virtually nothing at the end of the movie about the characters we didn't know when we first saw them. Whoo, let's celebrate!

Then again, the movie does have this:

cinema.league.poster.jpg Each week (or so), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: the 1992 comedy hit A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell and Lori Petty, directed by Penny Marshall, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.

The first installment of Cinema Varitek tackled Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch, a movie that ends with a dog winning World Series MVP (for the Angels, no less). This week, Cinema Varitek looks at an even more preposterous baseball movie, one where girls play baseball. Hey-o!

(I kid, of course. Everyone knows girls don't play baseball because A.G. Spalding wasn't loved enough by his mother. Or something like that.)

If the makers of the Air Bud straight-to-DVD franchise had made a movie about girls playing baseball, of course, it would be less believable than The Sixth Man. If Seventh Inning Fetch is sports movie cliche done horribly wrong, A League of Their Own is movie cliche done impressively right. Yeah, the movie's full of holes, spends a lot of time developing several characters who disappear halfway through the movie and has one of those too-perfect-to-happen sports movie moments at the end. But it's enjoyable.

What's actually most enjoyable, though, is the first game of the season, when Rosie O'Donnell's character trips over the third base line when she runs onto the field.

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Even if you hate baseball, the movie is worth watching just to see Rosie falling on the field over and over (if you choose to watch this scene over and over, as I did).

A quick primer on the movie's plot: Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) is always better than her kid sister, Kit (Lori "Tank Girl" Petty) at everything, including softball. But when a scout (Jon Lovitz) wants to find players, he takes Kit! And Dottie! Hmm, I guess that isn't much of a twist. He also finds an ugly girl who can hit the ball a mile (Megan Cavanagh), takes them to the tryouts at Wrigley Field and then disappears for the rest of the movie. (He'd return for the very short-lived TV series based on the movie the following year.)

The movie is about the (real) All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, an actual women's baseball league founded during World War II. (The league wasn't originally called that, and the women played a baseball/softball hybrid when it started out, but close enough.) A bunch of people try out, including Mae (Madonna) and Doris (O'Donnell) and a girl who can't read. In a shocking twist of fate, all the main characters make the Rockford Peaches.

At their first game, all the fans actually heckle the players as they take the field (even before Rosie O'Donnell falls). Why would they attend the game just to heckle the players? Actually, wait, I was a Phillies fan in the 1990s, I've done that with regular baseball before. Anyway: With the league in trouble, Dottie Hinson makes the cover of Life with perhaps the hottest scene in baseball movie history.

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