Major League (1989)

Rating: C+

Dir: David S. Ward
Star: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, James Gammon, Rene Russo

Plot is secondary to character here: writer/director Ward knows it, opting to get the story-line – evil owner (Margaret Whitton, excellent) wants to move baseball team, so acquires bunch of oddball losers as players, who hear of the plot and start winning – out of the way fast. A wise move; we all know where this is going to end. The last at-bat, of the final game, with hero Jake (Berenger) at the plate? Could be… Matters aren’t helped by an awful romance which makes Jake look like an obsessive stalker; if someone doesn’t want to be with you, let them go. To make things worse, his ex- (and, who am I kidding, eventual) girlfriend Russo is the kind of controlling bitch I’d cross the street to avoid, seemingly intent on changing Jake into a wussy new man who reads books.

Luckily, the rest of the film is a delight, with as bizarre a set of characters as ever played sport. Perhaps the most startling is Dennis Haysbert – the President in 24 – a mumbo-jumbo spouting, Voodoo ritual-favouring Cuban. He wins that title by a head over myopically felonious pitcher Vaughn (Sheen), nicknamed Wild Thing for good reason; speedy yet otherwise inept outfielder Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes); and a slimy veteran played to perfection by Corbin Bernson. Long-suffering manager (Gammon) probably steals the show, as he strives to keep the team going, while the owner pushes in the opposite direction. Of course it makes no sense (why not get players with no talent, or trade them away when they start winning?). But it does capture beautifully the “anything is possible” spirit which is undeniably part of baseball’s appeal.