More mixups and new/familiar faces are required at Required Viewing. This time, Annemarie’s husbandfriend is here, along with Kelsey and Nicole for the sports movie choice: Major League. Justin, kick it off for us, will you? Why did you pick this film and what makes it a particular favorite?
J: I’m usually pretty disappointed in sports movies. There are very obvious exceptions, Cool Runnings, Miracle, Field of Dreams, etc., but by and large, they either get too wrapped up in making it more than it is, or they play it too dumb to get non-sporting fans to attend in theatres. With Major League, they set it up to be just a fun, entertaining movie. There’s no cheesy moral, no deeper meaning and they assume you know a little about baseball. Mainly, though, I just love the characters and how they work together: the aging all-star catcher that takes the players under his wing, the intimidating voodoo-loving long-ball hitter, the young prima-donna who thinks he’s more of star than he his and the bad-ass rookie who doesn’t have control of anything….especially his fast-ball. They’re all great and so much fun to watch. It’s at the point that every baseball game I watch, live or on TV, I quote at least one line from this movie. So I had to show it, if only so everyone knows what I’m quoting.
It’s clear that I enjoyed it, but Brooke, are you a fan of sports movies in general and how does this stack up for you?
B: Like you, Justin, I have a few sports movies I love deeply (Moneyball, The Sandlot, Remember the Titans) but mostly, I don’t get the hype. You’re right that most sports movies try way too hard and the end result is a tonal miss. In that sense, the low-stakes approach of Major League is a quiet revolution. I could have done with slightly more of a sense of urgency, but I did ultimately like that we just spent a bunch of time with this group of guys who probably shouldn’t have had a place in the Bigs, but got one anyway.
And it goes without saying that Wesley Snipes is far and away my favorite character in this picture, but the Allstate guy was a nice add too.
AM, let’s hear your favorite player and your thoughts on where Major League stands in the sports film canon.
A: WHAT ABOUT RUDY? Aside from that insane omission, I agree. I think “sports movie” has become for the most part, either a kids’ genre or overly inspirational, “based on a true story” morality tale. Both of your examples are great, and I would challenge you both to identify a sports movie you don’t like, just so I can get an idea of what counts as bad here.
I enjoyed Major League for the same reasons, even if I do find it a bit farfetched that these guys would really do so well in season against carefully crafted teams. Crazier things have happened, and I was glad to be along for the ride. Fave player? I could listen to Dennis Haysbert read the dictionary, but my favorite is the coach, actually. First of all, what octave is his voice? It’s gotta be a record for lowest ever of all time. And I like that he doesn’t care that his team is supposed to lose, he’s gonna coach the hell out them anyway.
Ok, Justin, let us know! What are some of your favorite quotes?
J: Well the obvious is, “If you no help me now, I say fuck you Jobu, I do it myself.” It has a lot of practical applications if you make “Jobu” a loose term for whatever you’re working on. For instance, if your computer at work is running slow, that quote applies. If you need to get over in traffic, that also applies. Really it says, “help me or I’ll figure it out,” and I like that sentiment.
I would also say, a lot of what Bob Euker goes on about is quotable, and I can’t not see a pop fly or a home run without saying….”TOO HIGH” and then answering with, “Too high? What does that even mean?” Finally, I also know its blasphemous, but I enjoy going, “Ay yes, Jesus (like the Spanish version) I like him berry much, but he no help wif the curve ball.”
Brooke, going back to your favorites, I do enjoy them all as well. I think part of my sports movie problem is when it is based on a true story. Cool Runnings aside, I have a hard time getting around the facts. Mostly, I’m a sports romantic and find the need to change the story to fit a movie a disservice to the story; it’s good enough on its own for me. That’s why I like Major League so much, it’s not based on a true story. While its based on the MLB and the Cleveland Indians are a real team, it’s not based strictly on any real team or situation so they can have more fun with it and the players become caricatures, subsequently making them more fun/funny.
Kelsey, you’ve been in the bullpen thus far, what are your thoughts on Major League? Does the story bring up any good baseball memories?
K: Dear Justin, I’m going to ignore your question completely for a second because I have something I need to say. Though the movie is certainly not based on a true story and definitely precedes Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers of 2013-14, seeing Major League’s early plot unfold was the first time I thought, “Hey, this is like a real-life sports thing I know.” And before anyone else says it: Yes, I know I’m mixing sports here. But I have to work with what I’ve got.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, turn to the internet and all its wisdom. Or just listen to the “Trust the Process” episode of Reply All. (And to quickly mix in even more sports, last month Hinkie was hired on as an analytics consultant for our very own Denver Broncos.)
Now to turn to your question, sir. It didn’t necessarily bring up any baseball memories, because honestly, most of my baseball memories are about the mascots. Fun fact: I get star-struck around them. Fred Bird once came through the stands and I completely froze, gaze fixed on his big red bird head, while my pizza co-workers threatened to pry me from my seat so I could go say hi to him. I never did.
Back on track: Though it had a few of the typical sports movie must-haves—odds stacked against our guys, an underdog to bring it all home (sports pun!)—Major League didn’t feel like propaganda for America’s Favorite Pastime™, as sports flicks (to me) are wont to do. This movie brought the whimsy and nuance most true fans probably love about the actual sport. When you know their histories and the ins and outs of the players, the game is less about the rules and the intense heat. It’s a comedy/soap opera. And that is exactly my entry point for sports.
Now Nicole, we need to know: Is this a movie you’re ever going to think about again? And which part specifically?
N: The next time I find myself at a baseball stadium, I know I will silently be wishing that the announcer could be more like our Major League commentator, slowly getting drunk in the press box and handing out quips. I just think it could bring a whole new level of enjoyment to the game. Maybe we should pitch the idea to Coors Field?
But really the lasting image I will have of this flick, is the one quick shot in the training montage of Wesley Snipes getting down yet again to do push-ups because he missed the hit at a spring training exhibition game. For some reason that gag got to me, and I was on board for the rest of the movie. Maybe it was just his “here we go again” face or the fact he was committed to his bet with the coach, it was just simple fun, which is sometimes all you need.
We’ve gone thus far without addressing our aging all-star catcher’s technique of wooing by waltzing into unlocked houses. Brooke, what are your thoughts on his romance subplot with librarian Rene Russo? I do have to commend her character’s commitment to sweaters throughout the whole baseball season, even though it must obviously be summer.
B: How did we neglect the romantic sub-plot this whole time? Man-oh-man does Jake Tylor need to slow his roll. One does not simply walk into the home of an ex-lover, or an ex-lover’s boyfriend utterly unannounced. That’s a good way to get whacked with a frying pan or the top of a toilet tank or something. I mean, while I’m handing out remonstrations, Lynn Wells and her sweaters also need to learn how to lock a door. Come on, girl! Walk in on me once, shame on you. Walk in on me twice, shame on me. Still, as utterly awkward as their courtship is, I will give Jake credit as the far more interesting of the two men in Lynn’s life.
Okay, Justin, we’ve covered a lot of pretty disparate ground with all of us sharing our initial thoughts and veering off into tangents. What else do we need to unpack about Major League?
J: I don’t fault Jake or Lynn for Jake just wandering into the boyfriend’s apartment, that’s clearly either a design fault with the elevator or he’s secretly a crack locksmith in a subplot they never really get into…maybe when he’s in the Mexican League, who knows?
I think we’ve covered all there is that makes Major League such a great, lasting baseball classic. That said, there is a Major League II that I’ve never seen which brings up two points:
1) This was clearly successful enough to warrant that a sequel be made. Field of Dreams, arguably the best and most famous baseball movie ever, never got a sequel which is both good/bad. Imagine a movie where they follow Terry into the corn and its a bunch of old-timey baseball dudes hanging out in a lobby of some old hotel just talking about who’s the best. I could get on board if Aaron Sorkin is involved.
2) I watched five minutes of Major League II this weekend when it was on TV and was lost the second Omar Epps was Willie Mays Hays, taking the place of Wesley Snipes. While the majority of the cast was back, from what I could tell, I was turned off by that and Sorano becoming a Buddhist (I think, he stopped the game when he hit a bird and they lost, so that’s what makes sense). I could take that play on Sorano, but not with a different actor as Hayes. That’s unacceptable. So no, I won’t be involved in RV: Major League II.
A: I say we abandon plans of watching Major League II ever and instead try to get Sorkin involved in a “in the corn” sequel to Field of Dreams. It could star Gaby Hoffman! All in.
B: Guys, I’m all in on the Sorkin-Hoffman plan, but I have a confession. As I read Gaby’s name, I realized I had no idea why she would be involved. So even though I know enough about Field of Dreams to make “if you build it, they will come” jokes and to float a theory that Kevin Coster’s character is having quite a mental crisis… I … I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, at least not all of it.
Next time we’re taking it back to the sparkling indie scene of the mid-late 00s as we follow John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph on a quest to find the perfect place to start their family.