Monday April 20, 1998
The joke, such as it was, in the "Major League" movie mini-franchise--that the long-hapless Cleveland Indians actually become contenders--has been decisively outdated since the real Indians have played in two of the past three World Series. Now, in its third installment, the "Major League" series itself is the joke.
Even the blatantly contradictory title--"Major League: Back to the Minors"--admits that the series, like the "Police Academy" movies before it ("Mission to Moscow"?), has run out of ideas. The film itself is simply a painful confirmation.
Long gone are Wesley Snipes and Rene Russo (who both had the sense to exit after the first movie), as well as Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen. Still on hand is Corbin Bernsen as Roger--though instead of a mockably vain third baseman, he's now the sympathetic owner of the lowly Minnesota Twins (who replace the Tribe as cinematic whipping boys)--along with the just-collecting-paychecks thespians Dennis Haysbert (the wacky voodoo guy), Takaaki Ishibashi (the wacky Japanese guy) and Bob Uecker (the wacky play-by-play guy).
Brought in to shore up team morale this time around is Scott Bakula, who, despite spending half the movie hiding behind sunglasses, brings the movie the easy-going grace of a guy making the best of a bad situation.
No one's heart, apparently, is in going through these motions, except for maybe Ted McGinley, who does a pretty fair imitation of Mets manager Bobby Valentine, a well-coiffed, pearl-toothed and clueless slickster; unfortunately, he aims for the cheap seats in the obnoxiousness department. Even the special effects are listlessly rendered--many of the baseballs hit and pitched are obvious fakes.
Hence, the movie isn't so much inept as merely tired and uninspired. The problem isn't that gags fizzle--though, certainly, they do--it's that writer-director John Warren, who replaces David S. Ward as the series' spitballing auteur, doesn't even bother to create many comic setups in the first place.
Bakula stars as Gus, a career minor league pitcher whose arm has lost whatever mustard it had. Along comes ostensible old pal Roger (they're so tight that Roger never mentioned Gus in the other movies) to offer him a gig managing a minor league team.
At this point, the movie proves it has nothing remotely interesting to offer. Gus clearly has no other options but, for the sake of some anemic dramatic tension, still doesn't want to take the job. Though the audience realizes Gus' decision is a foregone conclusion, we're subjected to 10 minutes of narrative wheel-spinning to get to the story proper.
Which, likewise, is the same old same old. Gus' team stinks; he teaches 'em some basics; their fortunes improve (based on these "Major League" movies, you and I aren't such abject klutzes that we couldn't become credible players with a little heart and the right coaching). They can even whip the pathetic Twins--except that the climactic game occurs too early in the movie, so a completely idiotic plot contrivance is tossed in to force a rematch and extend this to feature length.
Warren seems to be interested in "Bull Durham's" funky vibe more than "Major League's" manic antics, but if he can't ape the latter, he certainly can't approximate the former. He doesn't even bother to build to the traditional two-out-in-the-bottom-of-the-ninth climax. Time for this team to hit the showers.
Major League: Back to the Minors, 1998. PG-13 for brief language. James G. Robinson presents a Morgan Creek production, distributed by Warner Bros. Director, writer John Warren. Producer James G. Robinson. Executive producers Michael Rachmil, Gary Barber, Bill Toddman Jr. Director of Photography Tim Suhrstedt. Editor O. Nicholas Brown, Bryan H. Carroll. Running time 1 hour 39 minutes. Scott Bakula as Gus. Corbin Bernsen as Roger. Dennis Haysbert as Pedro.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times