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By Brad Cook | July 1, 2004

Some dismiss “A League of Their Own” as nothing more than “a chick flick,” which bugs me for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t believe in “chick flicks” and “guy flicks;” movie are movies and should be appreciated on their own terms, not because they’ve been categorized. The fact that this film centers around baseball should also clue you in to the fact that there’s plenty of “guy flick” material in it. Second, as “Sex and the City” has proven, you can make women the focus of a story and still appeal to both sexes, as long as it’s well-written. Which brings me to point number three: There’s plenty in this film for people adverse to “chick flicks” to enjoy, especially Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Jimmie Dugan, a rough-and-gruff washed-up ex-ballplayer who spends most of his waking hours drunk.

Dugan–like all the characters in the film a fictional creation but somewhat based on a real person (in his case, Jimmie Fox)–is brought in to manage the Rockford Peaches, one of the teams in the All-American Girls Baseball League, a real organization formed in 1943 to fill in the void caused by the exodus of many male professional players who went overseas to fight in World War II. Geena Davis and Lori Petty play Dottie and Kit Hinson, competitive sisters recruited by irascible scout Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz) to play in the league. Lovitz is great in the role, which was written for him, and you can see more of his part in the deleted scenes included in this Special Edition.

Dottie and Kit join a team full of unique characters played by Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Reiner, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, and others. Those last two names might make you groan if you haven’t seen film, but they work well in their roles because they complement the others and don’t overshadow anyone. And the characters they play fit perfectly with their rough-at-the-edges personalities (well, depending on what “character” Madonna is playing in real life this week), which makes them well-cast in the film. While the story sometimes veers toward schmaltz, director Penny Marshall keeps the tone on an even keel and delivers a two-hour film worthy of the memory of a league few knew about until this movie arrived. It may not be perfect, but “A League of Their Own” is a fine sports film with plenty to say on the subject of baseball and how women fit into it.

This two-disc release from Columbia TriStar Home Video contains plenty of material to satisfy fans of the film. Disc one, which contains both widescreen and full-screen transfers of the movie, features a group commentary by Marshall, Petty, Reiner and Cavanagh. It’s full of reminiscing by all four, most of whom hadn’t seen the film in several years, which leads to much giggling and reminiscing about certain people and scenes. Unfortunately, it’s a bland track that rambles a lot and digresses into stories that don’t have a lot to do with what’s going on onscreen, but diehard fans will probably enjoy it.

Disc two, however, pulls out all the stops with 15 deleted scenes, a 52-minute documentary called “Nine Memorable Innings” (broken into nine parts, a nice feature for those who don’t have time to watch all of it at once), Madonna’s video for “This Used to Be My Playground,” and three theatrical trailers. While the deleted scenes are in pretty sorry shape, they’re still watchable, both from a video quality and story quality perspective. Each features an optional introduction from Marhsall, and they’re all fun to watch, especially the added footage of Lovitz’s character. No multiple versions of the same scene with minor changes each time or other tricks that DVD producers sometimes use to pad out such sections. Good stuff.

“Nine Memorable Innings” is also well done. Marshall, David, Reiner, O’Donnell, and others all share current recollections of the filming and their thoughts on the experience. While it’s a shame that current interviews with Hanks and Madonna didn’t happen, we do get vintage footage of them talking about the film on the set. Personally, I enjoy newer interviews more simply because I think it’s more interesting to hear creative people talk about films after they’ve had a chance to digest their involvement in them and look at the work in the context of both the era in which it was made and in terms of film history. But you take what you can get, and overall, this documentary offers plenty of information about the making of “A League of Their Own.”

The film’s original trailer, as well as theatrical trailers for “Brian’s Song” and “The Natural,” round out disc two, along with selected filmographies for the screenwriters, Marshall and most of the cast. I’m not sure why the “Brian’s Song” trailer was thrown in there. Didn’t Columbia TriStar have trailers for other baseball films in their library?

If you enjoy Madonna’s “This Used to be My Playground” video, though, you might be a “chick flick” kind of person.

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