My mildly embarrassing true confession is this: I spent most of Wednesday feeling downright woozy, in large part because I was anxious about how a postseason baseball series was going at the time. I’m doing much better now. Still, I’m expending a great deal of energy today in preemptive fretting over the sporting contest set to take place in Wrigley Field this evening. The archive raiding for this Saturday helplessly reflects that. This piece was written when Penny Marshall’s highest-grossing directorial effort was released on home video. Enjoy my litany of early-nineties curmudgeonly fan complaints that leads the review.
With multimillion dollars deals, free agency, artificial turf, and decisions based on potential monetary windfalls rather than the integrity of the game, it’s awfully easy to get jaded about the sport of baseball these days. So any time the movies can carry go back to an era when the spirit of the game was more solidly intact, it makes for a very enticing invitation. The new home video release A League of Their Own holds just such an offer, but even though a love of baseball is present, this tepid comedy still disappoints.
The movie tells the story of an all-female professional baseball league started during World War II to keep ticket sales up while the superstars of the diamond marched off to war. The league is admirable, if largely forgotten, chapter in the history of the American Pastime, and A League of Their Own deserves credit for alerting people to its existence.
But there’s something wrong with a film about a women’s baseball league in which the two most memorable characters and performers are men. Jon Lovitz is hilarious as a cantankerous scout, and Tom Hanks is moving and funny as the drunken coach who resents his spot managing one of the new women’s teams. The film also features Geena Davis and Lori Petty in a tired subplot involving competitiveness between sisters, and Madonna as — get this! — a promiscuous ballplayer. They blend right in with all of the other uninspired female characters. A League of Their Own details the sport of baseball and the struggle of the league just fine, but it leaves the remarkable women who played this sport behind.