Except for the fact that it was a commercial hit, the 1989 baseball movie "Major League" was not the sort of film that cried out to be sequelized. But a lot can happen in five years--for one thing, baseball movies seem to be hanging in there. (So are sports movies in general.) So here's another go-round with the cloddy, come-from-behind Cleveland Indians sluggers who once again stumble in pursuit of the American League Eastern Division championship. Want to bet they make it again? The people behind "Major League II" are no dopes: They must already be cooking up "III."
Many of the same players from the first film put in repeat appearances. Charlie Sheen's Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn is now a superstar with a seven-digit salary, a stretch limo, a fancy girlfriend and a groomed GQ look to replace his former punkishness. Dennis Haysbert's Pedro Cerrano has gone Buddhist; he chants in the locker room and compliments opposing pitchers on their fastballs. Willie Mays Hayes, played in the first film by Wesley Snipes and here by Omar Epps, has been making Hollywood movies in the off-season as the action hero Black Hammer. Tom Berenger's Jake is back as the manager, replacing James Gammon, who spends his best moments in the film cheering the Indians from a hospital bed while he's pretending to watch "Masterpiece Theatre." Bob Uecker, as the Indians' perpetually bedraggled play-by-play radio announcer, puts in another appearance, dressing down from his Liberace-like duds to a T-shirt as the Indians slide into the cellar. (His aghast expostulations are the film's highlight.)
If only the "Naked Gun" folks had stepped in to really shake things up! Baseball movies are ripe for a full-out lampoon but "Major League II" keeps pumping up its "heart." We learn all sorts of homiletic life lessons about the value of sportsmanship and Being True to Yourself. Why do sports movies always have to devolve into civics lessons? To its credit, "Major League II" doesn't go in for a lot of moony sentiment about America's Pasttime but it ends up tenderized anyway.
* MPAA rating: PG, for some rude language. Times guidelines: It includes lots of yelling in the bleachers.
'Major League II'
Charlie Sheen: Rick Vaughn
Dennis Haysbert: Pedro Cerrano
Omar Epps: Willie Mays Hayes
Tom Berenger: Jake Taylor
A Warner Bros. presentation of a James G. Robinson presentation. A Morgan Creek Production. Director David S. Ward. Producers James G. Robinson and David S. Ward. Executive producer Gary Barber. Screenplay by R. J. Stewart. Cinematographer Victor Hammer. Editors Paul Seydor, Kimberly Ray, Donn Cambern, Fred Wardell. Costumes Bobbie Read. Music Michel Colombier. Production designer Stephen Hendrickson. Set designer Kyung Chang. Set decorator Leslie Bloom. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.