The Cleveland Indians were considered the joke of the American League, finishing their seasons in or near last place for over 30 years. In 1989, David S. Ward, a lifetime, suffering Indians fan, wrote and directed what many consider to be one of the best baseball comedies, Major League. Desperately wanting to break her contract with the city, new team owner Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) puts together a team of misfits and losers hoping attendance will drop enough to allow her to move the team to Miami. She hires Lou Brown (veteran character actor James Gammon), a part-time minor league manager and full-time tire store manager, to run the team, and recruits washed-up catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), rookie pitcher (and felon) Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), rookie outfielder Willie Hayes Mays (Wesley Snipes), and Cuban refugee Pedro Cerrano (“newcomer” Dennis Haysbert). Corbin Bernsen rounds out the team as spoiled free-agent third baseman Roger Dorn. When the team discovers Rachel Phelps’ plan, that is the gel that brings the team together, and puts them on a course to the division playoffs.
Much of the comedy in Major League comes from the witty dialogue from Ward’s screenplay and adlibs from the cast. The funniest lines, though, are from veteran player and sportscaster Bob Uecker, best known at the time for his self-deprecating TV spots for Miller Lite beer. His most famous line, “Just a bit outside,” is still widely used today on SportsCenter.
Twenty years after its theatrical release, Major League still holds up and hasn‘t aged all that much. Part of the fun, though, after all these years, is spotting all the actors and actresses who first got their start in this film. Most notably is Rene Russo as Lynn Wells, the love interest for Tom Berenger’s Jake Taylor. Another surprise is seeing Dennis Haysbert (better known as President David Palmer on 24) as Cerrano. For fans of Scrubs, if you look closely, you’ll spot Neil Flynn (the Janitor) as part of the Greek chorus.
Paramount brings Major League to Blu-ray in a 1080p AVC encode that doesn’t disappoint, but doesn’t surprise either. Filmed in the late 1980s, Major League has an overall softness to the image, typical of most movies made during that period. Flesh tones are accurate, colors are not over-saturated, and blacks are inky. Film grain is visible, as are occasional dirt specks and hairs, but not obtrusive, replicating the movie theater experience.
Originally mixed for movie theaters in Dolby Stereo with matrixed surround, the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack has improved fidelity, but its stereo origins are evident. The movie’s soundtrack is front-heavy, with dialogue directed to the center channel. The surrounds come alive during James Newton Howard’s score and add ambience to crowd sequences. The track does its job, but won’t surprise you or give your speakers a workout.
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