7 Random Thoughts on “Major League”

17Apr12

I recently re-watched this 1989 non-landmark. Here are some thoughts:

1.) Cerrano Gets 1 Hit The Entire Season. Only one on camera, anyway. Thru the course of the movie, we see him nail some batting practice pitches at the beginning of spring training, then proceed to miss every single pitch in the entire movie until the last one he sees. For screen economy, this is fine, but I was surprised we didn’t hear or see at least one successful at bat from Cerrano before the Big Game at the end, because it makes me wonder why they even kept him in the lineup. And his struggles reminded me of Adam Dunn this season.

2.) That American Express Commercial Is Less Joke and More ACTUAL Commercial. Sure, they get some bits in there, but the movie doesn’t back away from this being an actual advertisement in the middle of the story. Really, there’s no reason to even have it in there, unless the point — as I always assumed — was to think that the Indians are doing so well that they’d be picked for a national endorsement deal. I do, however, like the touch that Dorn, the man who has plans for major endorsement work after baseball, is one of the worst performers in this commercial.

3.) Fairweather Fans. If you want to really read into things too much, you could almost make the argument that Cleveland fans are fickle, and that they only come back to the team when they show signs of life. Not that this is without precedent OR that it’s a bad thing.  As a divorced Cubs fan, I actually support the idea that you do not have to blindly hand over money to a bad playing and badly run team/franchise. But just taking the movie at face value, it seems like the fans don’t like the team in the beginning, then they start to like them when they win, and everyone buys Ricky Vaughn shirts and they all show up at the last game.

4.) SCREENWRITING ECONOMY. I guess I’m watching this whole movie with my screenwriter eyes, but something that really stuck out at me was the scene where Vaughn sleeps with (unbeknownst to him) Dorn’s wife. They (apparently) went back to Vaughn’s place, which he (apparently) shares with Taylor. What struck me was the assumption that we, the audience, allow the movie to make that Taylor — a veteran — would be roommates with the rookie Vaughn. I guess it could make sense, seeing as how everyone on the team is (apparently) poor and this is a pitcher and catcher, who (apparently, according to every baseball movie ever) have a special friendship unlike the other teammates. But what’s great about making assumptions like this is that it only speeds things up for the story.

Imagine if Taylor and Vaughn weren’t roommates. It would have added at least one or two extra scenes to the final end of Act Two, which could only serve to slow things down. And that’s one place* where you absolutely do NOT want to slow things down. If they weren’t roommates, then Vaughn would have to have called Taylor, told him what’s up, then they’d have to hatch some little plan on how to deal with it. As it plays, you don’t rehash any old information whatsoever. Taylor sees what we see, and we’re all on the same page. No wonder David Ward wrote “The Sting.” He’s pretty good.

5.) David Ward wrote “Major League” and “The Sting.” Among other movies, including “Sleepless In Seattle.” I can’t get over this. I grew up believing that “The Sting” is one of the most fun, twisty-turny movies out there, and I guess that’s really just masking a well made comedy. So the fact that the same guy could write a stylized heist movie, a drippy Norah Ephron chick flick and a by-the-books sports movie shouldn’t blow my mind that much, but it does. I keep thinking that he must have just made a checklist of the types of movies he needed in his repertoire, and went down the line hitting off each one. He’s also credited on the sequels (“The Sting II” and the “Major League” sequels), but only the characters. Nevertheless…

6.) David Ward Is Responsible For Some of the Most Diminished Diminished Returns in Sequels. I think I’ve tried and failed to complete either “The Sting II” or “Major League 2,” and I can honestly say I was the most disappointed in “ML2.” Not that “Major League” was such an artistic accomplishment that a sequel couldn’t possibly have lived up to the original, but quite the opposite. Because the original was so by the book, you’d think they could have come up with a plausible, realistic, relatable sequel. I can’t remember much of anything that happened, except that the new catcher — who I believe was really good at hitting and throwing out potential base stealers — couldn’t throw to the pitcher. Let me restate that idiotic quirk: he can’t throw to the pitcher. If it feels manufactured compared to, say, a pitcher with control problems or a power hitter who can’t hit a curve ball, I think you’re absolutely right. I remember being so into “Major League” in high school that my friends and I were pumped for a sequel, but even our feeble developing brains could see that this was plain awful.

With that being said, I am now a little more curious to see “ML2″ just to see what other awful decisions they’ve come up with.

7.) I Like “Major League” More Than “Bull Durham.” Even though that’s not the “correct” decision, and that “ML” followed “BD,” doesn’t push for some grand theory of life and baseball, etc… I think this is how I feel.  I’m not saying “ML” is a better film, but just that I enjoy it. It is about what it’s about, and it presents it successfully. Suck on that, everybody.

 

*The other place you don’t want to slow things down in a movie: every other scene.

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