Major League is such an important film to me for so many reasons – it’s one of the funniest films ever made, it’s one of the best sports comedies ever made, and it was the first R-rated movie I saw on the big screen; I was eight years old. I can still remember my father telling me, “Son, this film has a word in it. A certain word that begins with the letter F. And I don’t want to hear this word out of your mouth after you see this movie.” Ha! To say that my mind was blown would be an understatement; I can still remember the feeling I had while watching the locker room blow out with all that fuckin’ cursing and hollering and feeling like I was privy to something extra-special, something adult, something that separated the little kids from the grown-ups.
I wore my viewing of this film like a badge of honor, proudly exclaiming to my buddies that I had seen this movie, Major League, and there was tons of swearing and things I could never understand at the time. And I love that when it hit TV, I could rationalize to my mother how it was OK for her to tape it for me, because I had already seen it despite the cussing, so what was the big deal if I viewed it again and again? I also love how my theatrical experience was my dad’s second viewing of the movie, having seen it the previous evening with my mother on opening night. He knew how funny it was, and he needed his kid to see it. I can’t wait to experience this with my own child and make it a regular occurrence.
Written and directed by the prolific David S. Ward (screenwriter of The Sting, The Milago Beanfield War, and Sleepless in Seattle, and director of Cannery Row and The Program), the film’s all-star cast is really spectacular, with everyone getting a chance to round the bases: Tom Berenger as the old and tired catcher, Charlie Sheen as the hot-shot pitching phenom with a penchant for hit batsmen, Dennis Haysbert as the mysterious slugger with a special friend named Jobu, Corbin Bernsen as the slick but underachieving third baseman, Wesley Snipes as the flamboyant center fielder, the great Chelcie Ross as the veteran starting pitcher with a chip on his shoulder, bitchy Margaret Whitton as the nefarious team owner, the smarmy Charles Cyphers as Whitton’s henchman, crusty James Gammon as the salt-of-the-earth head coach, and the ridiculously funny Bob Uecker as the alcoholic radio announcer.
Everything about this movie works, from the big scenes on the baseball field, to the smaller, more romantic moments between Berenger and the radiant Rene Russo, who had one of the greatest runs during the 90’s that I can think of, appearing in a string of well-received blockbusters and always bringing her A-game. And I love the club house vibe in this film, as the screenplay really struck comedy gold whenever the action was set with the team as a group, with the entire cast conveying true chemistry with one another. Shot for $11 million and grossing $50 million, the film was a solid success with theatrical audiences, but REALLY found its footing on VHS and DVD, while neither sequel came remotely close to capturing the same sense of vulgar glee and smart comedic riffing. “This guy here is dead!” “Cross him off then!”