By Brad Laidman | October 10, 2000

There is nothing wrong with grade-A prime aged Angus beef, but sometimes all you really want is a McDonald’s hamburger. “Major League” is the quarter pounder with cheese of baseball movies. There’s nothing original about it, all the characters are stolen from other books or movies, but it understands the longings of a starved baseball town, and manages to wring out plenty of laughs from familiar situations.
Margeret Whitton plays the owner of the Cleveland Indians who isn’t aware that she could make a boatload of money if she’d only tear down Municipal Stadium and build Jacob’s Field. Her brilliant scheme is to make the team so awful (in 1989 when this film came out they hadn’t made the playoffs in 45 years) that attendance will drop to nothing and she can get Major League approval to move the team to Florida for big bucks. This means she has to tear apart her franchise’s already-killer roster and fill it with rejects, retreads, convicts, has-beens, and midgets. The guy they hire to manage the team isn’t even sure he wants to leave his job at the auto body.
You’ve seen all these characters before. The unbeatable high-paid New York Yankees, the crafty old catcher who’s knees are shot, the young fireballer with no control either with his arm or personally, the speedster who can’t hit, the voodoo believing power hitter who can’t catch up to a curve, and the veteran spitballer with religious hang-ups. There are the usual newspaper headline montages, the three way collisions in the outfield, the stirring locker room speeches. Luckily, when thrown together they make up an entertainingly motley crew.
When the team finds out why they were put together, they decide to show the old lady and win it all. Amazing. Owners that tried failed for over fifty years to get this team to win a division and a woman does it trying to lose.
Bob Uecker is pretty amusing playing basically Bob Uecker. Dennis Haysbert is menacingly scary and funny as the voodoo hitter, and Tom Berenger is affecting enough as the catcher who is desperately trying to redeem his way back into Rene Russo’s bed. Hey, I grew up in Cleveland a die-hard tribe fan, but see if you don’t get a lump in your throat when they play X’s punked-out, stadium-filled ecstatic version of “Wild Thing” when Charlie Sheen comes in to will a few 100 mph fastballs by the best hitter in the league. The baseball action is even fairly well done. It won’t change your life but it’ll feed your soul on a Friday night.

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