BluRay Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    BLURAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Tom Berenger as JAKE TAYLOR
    Charlie Sheen as RICKY VAUGHN
    Corbin Bernsen as ROGER DORN
    Margaret Whitton as RACHEL PHELPS
    James Gammon as LOU BROWN
    Rene Russo as LYNN WELLS
    Wesley Snipes as WILLIE MAYS HAYES

    Rated R
    Studio: Paramount

    Directed by: David S. Ward

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After decades of losing seasons, the Cleveland Indians get a new owner, widowed ex-showgirl Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) who wants to move the team to Miami. In order to move from Ohio, Phelps has to lower attendance to record levels, so she builds a team of misfits with the intention of coming in dead last in the American League. However, when her new team realizes her plan, they come together and rally to win the first pennant since 1954.

I may have been born and raised (and still live in) Columbus, Ohio, but I have a soft spot for all things Cleveland. I watched the Browns since I was a child, and I always silently rooted for the Indians. When the team finally started winning pennants again in 1995, it was a joy, and I remember all the references to “Major League” when this happened.

However, in 1989, the American League Pennant was still six years away, and the Indians were one of the biggest underdogs in league history. This played into the fantasy and excitement of “Major League” when it was first released.

“Major League” is an underdog story and has become a film of cinematic and sports legend. However, unlike most other inspirational sports films, “Major League” is also a comedy that can connect to a mainstream audience. The absurdity of the Indians winning the pennant in 1989 helped make the film a lot of fun, and it was a great little fantasy for Tribe fans back in the day.

The cast in the film is great, starting with the players (including Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes). Margaret Whitton was fantastic as the evil new owner, and James Gammon seems to have been born to play the bitter old manager Lou Brown. Considering where some of these actors have gone in the past 20 years (including voodoo minion Pedro Cerrano become the President of the United States in “24”), the movie is a testament to a quality cast of off-kilter characters that will live in our hearts forever.

And let’s not forget Bob Uecker as one of the best baseball commentators ever.

The film manages to be dramatic and hilarious at the same time. It never falls into cheap gags or goofy humor. Rather, the comedy is situational and actually quite believable in its own context.

“Major League” was a huge hit when it was released, which led into a summer of awesome films, including Tim Burton’s “Batman” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” It made it big in the spring but disappeared in the summer fray. The biggest problem with the film was its staying power in the minds of Hollywood execs, spawning some lesser sequels, including the self-imitating “Major League II” in 1994 (right as the Indians were becoming a formidable ball team again) and the quite dreadful “Major League: Back to the Minors” in 1998.

As you would expect with a classic film that’s had some significant home video releases already, there are plenty of special features to choose from. On the BluRay front, “Major League” isn’t really one of those films that people have been clamoring for in high definition, but it still looks good. After all, sports television has helped push high definition in broadcast. And the sound really strikes a chord in the more exciting moments, especially when Ricky Vaughn strolls out to the field with “Wild Thing” blaring in the stadium.

Writer/director David S. Ward and producer Chris Chesser lend their voices to an audio commentary, giving some insight into the origins of the movie and how things were made. There’s also a handful of featurettes, including “My Kinda Team” that chronicles the background of the film, “A Major League Look at Major League” which features interviews with Cleveland Indian players about their love of the film and “Bob Uecker: Just A Bit Outside” which offers a deeper look into the character of Harry Doyle.

Additional features include an alternate ending struck from a murky work print that is interesting to watch but would have ruined the film, in my opinion. There’s also an interesting tour of Cerrano’s locker, with the focus on Jobo his voodoo idol, as well as a photo gallery from the film.

Cleveland Indian fans and sports movie buffs.

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