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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Major League (Wild Thing Edition)



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#1 of 10 JustinCleveland

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Posted March 26 2007 - 04:16 AM


MAJOR LEAGUE
Wild Thing Edition



Studio: Paramount Pictures
Year: 1989
Rated: R
Length: 106 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Languages: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French Mono
Subtitles: English
Street Date: April 10, 2007

Populated by a cast of actors who understand comedy playing a diverse set of characters, Major League reads like a love letter to both baseball and the city of Cleveland. The total package is a movie that stands up well against the test of time. A seminal sports movie, Major League also happens to be an intelligent, hilarious comedy.

Much like the sport it features, Major League is an ensemble film that tracks a variety of loosely-related personal stories, ultimately returning to the field of play for its climax. The hapless crew of has-beens and never-wills come together in a spectacular show of grit and gamesmanship to show up the evil team owner, Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton). Without the deliciously devious character Whitton creates, the film would merely be a feel-good story. Her antagonist makes us root for the team all the more; it’s a great sympathetic relationship.

Every character in the film is distinct; playing for reasons that are their own. While troubled pitcher Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) is the star of both the team and the film, this really is Tom Berenger’s movie. Jake Taylor, the washed-up catcher with bum knees, recognizes that this may truly be his last shot to play, and that inspiration allows him to rally the team to victory. The dynamic Berenger creates between team members, particularly Wesley Snipe’s Willie Mays Hayes and Sheen’s Vaughn is special. His romantic subplot, rekindling a lost romance, is similarly touching and real.

The supporting cast don’t slouch, either. James Gammon is wonderful as the sly and sarcastic manager Lou, and Corbin Bernsen is deliciously devious and dislikeable, and yet it isn’t hard for us to root for him in the end. This comes about because the characters are recognizable and seem real, if caricatures. And not enough good things can be said about the contributions of Bob Uecker, the play-by-play man. I grew up listening to Uecker call Brewers games, and his natural, ineffable charm comes through with some of the best, most quotable lines. Plus there are the contributions of a young man who looks suspiciously like the janitor on television’s “Scrubs.”

Major League isn’t a perfect film, however. Like the modern baseball season, the film runs too long and the ensemble nature of the film takes focus off plotlines just as they pick up steam. The jokes grow thin and rare during the middle of the film while the romantic subplot takes center stage. The tone, similarly, is inconsistent; the movie doesn’t know if it wants to be story-driven or slapstick. But these quibbles are minor; on par Major League is a very funny, classic, accessible sports comedy.

Video:
I happened to catch Major League on HDNet Movies a couple of months back, and remember being disappointed with the video quality. This 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer suffers from a soft image, looking flat. Colors don’t pop, though they are accurately represented. Grain is not a problem, nor is compression. The transfer, on par, looks very good; probably the best this movie has ever looked.

Audio:
The audio comes in two flavors, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround, both of which accurately represent the theatrical experience. The 5.1 track is mostly reserved to the main speakers, and the subwoofer gets little use. The dialogue is clean and the music cues come through without distortion, even the atrocious songs like number over the end credits. I can’t figure out what it is because every time I try to remember it, my brain shuts down and I wind up a drooling pile of meat and bones for three minutes.

Extras:
I would be remiss to complete this review without mentioning the Astroturf cover slipcover. While completely impractical, it makes for a neat package. On more substantive issues, there is a commentary by writer/director David Ward and producer Chris Chesser. The two include a lot of trivia that helps flesh out the production side of the film, and the inspirations for the story. They fall into the trap of watching the movie or saying, “I remember that line” a few times, but are, for the most part, good and chatty.

“My Kind of Team” is a brief featurette that looks back at the making of the movie. The clips included in this featurette look exponentially better than the images in the film, which makes me wonder about what was done differently here. The writer, director, and actors all take the time to reflect on the construction of their characters and the story. This footage is intercut with interviews that were given during the production, creating a rounded picture of the construction of the movie.

A selection of MLB players and announcers talk about their adoration for Major League. Little else I can say. It’s a love fest during “A Major League look at Major League.”

The piece de resistance is a reflection on Bob Uecker’s contributions to the movie as Harry Doyle, and a look at Uecker’s life and career as both a ballplayer and commentator. There is one deleted scene included, a new ending that reveals the owner’s master plan; how she intended for the team to win after all. It, honestly, was best-left deleted.

There are a few EPK pieces included that even most die-hard fans will find little use for. First, Pedro Cerano takes us on an in-character tour of his eclectic, cluttered locker; an old EPK piece, I think. The photo gallery is a useless run of stills from the film.

Finally the disc has a few previews for other great comedies like Airplane, Tommy Boy, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But you own those already, don’t you?

Overall:
Major League is a quality film that lacks focus. Fortunately, even taking its flaws into account, the film’s simple charms make it work. It is funny and heartfelt, making the audience care about a team of loveable losers. You don’t need to know a thing about baseball to appreciate it, nor anything about Cleveland or the team; though it will add to your experience. A double-dip this may be, but it is definitely worth your money.

#2 of 10 Aaron Silverman

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Posted March 26 2007 - 05:35 AM

Thanks for the review. Do you happen to remember whether the old disc was anamorphic? Also, how long is the Bob Eucker feature?
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#3 of 10 ScottJH

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Posted March 26 2007 - 06:07 AM

Yes, the first version was anamorphic.

#4 of 10 Ryan B

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Posted March 26 2007 - 07:28 AM

Don't forget the contributions of a young man who looks suspiciously like President David Palmer from "24" (but with a bald head).
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#5 of 10 JustinCleveland

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Posted March 26 2007 - 07:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan B
Don't forget the contributions of a young man who looks suspiciously like President David Palmer from "24" (but with a bald head).

I like to stay with the obscure observations. Posted Image

They actually address his role, and how nobody recognized him because this was his first big role and had never before, or since, shaved his head. (Except the sequel, of course.)

#6 of 10 Andrew Bunk

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Posted March 28 2007 - 07:42 AM

The real question is, is it any better looking than the 2002 anamorphic release?

I've seen the HDnet version too, and it didn't strike me as a new transfer.
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#7 of 10 Corey_Smith

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Posted April 14 2007 - 02:01 AM

I just purchased the DVD, and I noticed there is no trailer for the film, yet in the first extra "My Kinda Team" they show a scene from the trailer. Not sure what the deal is. :-(

#8 of 10 Carl Walker

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Posted April 15 2007 - 01:47 AM

Is there an actual keep case under that slipcover? I would have purchased this immediately when I saw it, but Paramount decided to get all cutesy with the packaging... If I can toss the slipcover, then I may buy it.
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#9 of 10 JustinCleveland

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Posted April 15 2007 - 04:53 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl Walker
Is there an actual keep case under that slipcover? I would have purchased this immediately when I saw it, but Paramount decided to get all cutesy with the packaging... If I can toss the slipcover, then I may buy it.
Yes, there's a keepcase under there.

#10 of 10 Carl Walker

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Posted April 15 2007 - 06:34 AM

Good to know... Thanks!
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