The latest picks in my baseball movie marathon were strictly comedies, which is always a good thing when it comes to baseball. We started with Major League, an obvious classic that I had only seen once before. This is one of those movies that amazes me now to see how many future stars appear. Before we go any further, I LOVED it. It’s hilarious, and the comedy holds up to the test of time. Although some of the characters and parts of the plot show up in other baseball movies (injured veteran catcher leads the team, young hotshot pitcher who has no control, asshole team owner wants them to fail…), Major League puts it all together perfectly. Incidentally, Wikipedia tells me that Charlie Sheen was a pitcher in high school, and managed to get his fastball up to 85 mph during filming. How cool is that? Perhaps this movie rings true to me as a Mets fan, watching my team SUCK the past few years despite their talent (not to mention a super-speedy Wesley Snipes (aka Jose Reyes) and a bald, goateed superstitious slugger (aka Carlos Delgado)). It’s just a good story about a team that pulls together. It’s funny, it’s got good montages (made better by the addition of newspaper headlines as the season nears the end), Bob Uecker is perfect as the Indians’ announcer, and I love the cuts to the fans’ reactions at first when they suck and then as they get better. Maybe it doesn’t say important things about the spirit of baseball, but it’s one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s going on my annual baseball-is-almost-here movie watching list, without a doubt.
We then watched Major League 2 which is also really funny, but doesn’t hold up to the original at all. The cast of characters is largely the same, swapping Wesley Snipes for Omar Epps, who is good but clearly doing an imitation of Snipes’ version of Willie Mays Hayes. Tom Berenger’s character is too old to be competitive, so he joins the coaching staff. There are a few new misfits added to the bunch; this movie chronicles the season just following the success in Major League. It definitely feels like they were trying to recapture the magic of the original movie, but they don’t quite get there. It’s not without hilarious moments, though. There’s a young catcher who can’t throw to the mound. Charlie Sheen’s character has tidied up his image and lost his ability to blow pitches by the batters. It’s another classic baseball comedy, but I didn’t love it nearly as much as the original. Dan assured me that the third one (Back to the Minors!) is not worth a viewing. Maybe one day. Still, it’s hard to turn down a baseball comedy, so don’t rule this one out completely.
The third baseball movie we watched this week was Mr. 3000, starring Bernie Mac. This is the only remotely recent movie on my list (it came out in 2004), and was recommended by my brother. I was a little skeptical, because Bernie Mac plays an asshole first-baseman who alienated all of his teammates and fans in his pursuit of 3000 hits, topping it off by retiring the same night he achieves the goal. The bulk of the movie takes place nine years later, where a 46-year-old Stan Ross is frustrated because he keeps missing the Hall of Fame. It turns out that a statistical error was made, and he only has 2,997 hits, so he decides to make a comeback in order to get those last 3 hits. This is one of those movies where you’re not loving the main character, but grow to root for him as the movie goes on. He clashes with his new teammates, who are obviously much younger, in better shape, and don’t think they need him at all. His struggles are hilarious, but the movie has a lot of heart. I wasn’t expecting to laugh so hard. This movie was really great, and I love how it ended (but I won’t ruin it for you). I’m glad we included this one, and Bernie Mac is fantastic.