The plot, centered on a real-life team - the Cleveland Indians - is a
zany fantasy written and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter David
Ward ("The Sting," "The Milagro Beanfield War"), who made his directing
debut a few years back with the underrated "Cannery Row."
The story has the owner of the Indians dying, leaving the team to his
mercenary wife (Margaret Whitton, the boss's sexy wife in "The Secret of
My Success"). But she doesn't like Cleveland, so she figures to reduce
attendance at the games to a level so low she will be allowed to
relocate the team to Florida, where she can become a society matron.
How? By hiring players so inept they chase fans away.
Among those she recruits are Tom Berenger, as an over-the-hill
catcher with bad knees; Charlie Sheen, an ex-con with a powerful
pitching arm but absolutely no control; Corbin Bernsen (Arnie Becker on
TV's "L.A. Law"), a third baseman so concerned about his future as a TV
pitchman that he lets the ball go by so it won't damage his looks;
Wesley Snipes, as "Willie Mays" Hayes, who thinks he's all speed as he
tries to set base-stealing records; and Dennis Haysbert, a first baseman
who uses voodoo to influence his batting average.
Needless to say, the team is lousy and loses game after game, just as
Whitton hoped. And just as predictably, they soon get a shot in the arm
that prompts them to play better and bring Cleveland out of the cellar.
The latter prompts Whitton to put hardships on the team, hoping to
break that winning spirit, but, of course, the Indians endure to the
end, if you will.
Plot is secondary to just about everything else in a movie like this,
and "Major League" has none of the depth of "Bull Durham," despite a
similar bevy of oddball characters as players and Rene Russo in a small
role that quite remarkably resembles Susan Sarandon's. But "Major
League" is funny, and that makes it work.
Berenger has the nominal lead in this ensemble piece, but most of the
laughs go to Charlie Sheen, very good in a deadpan performance as the
punk pitcher who learns discipline and control the hard way. And some of
the supporting players, including Snipes, Haysbert, James Gammon as the
team manager and Bob Uecker as the Indians' goofy radio announcer, get
more than their share of yucks, as well.
If you're looking for a sexy, funny baseball movie with depth of
character and a thought-provoking examination of love, rent "Bull
Durham." But if you just want some good laughs, "Major League" should
fill the bill.