THE FILM 4.5/5
“[Baseball] is supposed to be hard.
If it wasn’t, everybody would do it.”
Celebrate the 25th anniversary of this hilarious and beloved comedy starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna. Hanks stars as Jimmy Dugan, a washed-up ballplayer whose big league days are over. Hired to coach in the All-American Girls Baseball League of 1943 – while the male pros are at war – Dugan finds himself drawn back into the game by the hearts and heroics of his all-girl team, led by the indomitable Dottie Hinson (Davis). Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell and Jon Lovitz round out the all-star roster. Based on the true story of the pioneering women who blazed the trail for generations of athletes.
More than just a misfit baseball comedy a la Major League, but not as heavy as Bang the Drum Slowly or The Natural, A League of Their Own solidified its position as the perfect “dramedy” before that term ever existed. And director Penny Marshall, who hasn’t directed nearly as many films as she should have, knows a thing or two about meshing comedy and drama, being that her two previous films were the undervalued Awakenings and the utter classic Big. Call A League of Their Own what you want—a comedy with dramatic elements, a drama with moments of comedy, or a dramedy that perfectly marries the two—but when it wants to be funny, it’s very funny, and when it wants to pull at the heartstrings, it does so easily and without cheap manipulation. (Seriously, if you’re not crying every single time Betty Spaghetti gets that telegram, you have no soul.)
A League of Their Own revisits the very real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, an unexpected byproduct of many men enlisting to fight abroad in World War II, leaving baseball fields barren across the country. Planted into the middle of this alien environment are the close but conflicted Keller sisters, Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty), who join the league after being solicited by baseball scout Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz). Relying on a mishmash of previous baseball film tropes—the tried and true transition from underdogs to superstars, with a little Bad News Bears thrown in for good measure—A League of Their Own also acknowledges multiple real-world conflicts to remind the audience that just because these women are playing a game, it doesn’t mean it’s always fun. For them, this new baseball league isn’t just an opportunity to do something new, but a chance to escape the constraints of being just a “woman” confined to less than desirable professions or statuses. Madonna’s Mae Mordabito is a former burlesque dancer desperate for a way out. Megan Cavanaugh’s tomboyish Marla Hooch, raised like a boy by her well-meaning father, finally finds an environment where she feels normal, and people she can call her friends. The crowd mocks them as they take the field; radio commentators defame their not-so-womanly women’s league; they are managed by an alcoholic curmudgeon (Tom Hanks) more interested in scratching his balls than forming a line-up. But most importantly, their husbands are at war, and at any moment, that telegram from the war department can arrive with their name on it, alerting them that someone they love isn’t ever coming home.
Everything heavy aside, A League of Their Own permanently bequeathed to the masses one of the most quotable lines of all time: “There’s no crying in baseball!”
THE PICTURE 4/5
This anniversary edition of A League of Their Own doesn’t bring with it a new remastered picture, but that’s not to say the previous iteration was a slouch in either department. Though this edition may be identical in terms of picture and sound presentation, it’s still a fine release in terms of both. League is a colorful film — once it gets to the actual baseball action, that is. The colors of the baseball diamond and the ladies’ ensembles replicate very well, with a stability to the picture that leaves it still and without any telecine tremors. Detail is very fine during certain moments, especially during the final moments set in the present as the ladies tour the Baseball Hall of Fame.
THE SOUND 4.5/5
League has an excellent screenplay, fitted with the usual kind of snappy dialogue that most Penny Marshall films tend to have. If you’re lucky, then your film gets to walk away with having contributed one quotable line to the lexicon. A League of Their Own must have a dozen. And luckily the dialogue receives top prominence throughout, even during the scenes set to Hans Zimmer’s funnest and most unique score in his filmography. As Marshall admits on her commentary track, Zimmer was an “East German composer who had never seen a single baseball game in his life,” but that didn’t stop him from honoring the musical movement from that era in time — the big band craze — and turning it into a breathless and enthusiastic pastiche that marries many sequences and montages together.
THE SUPPLEMENTS 4/5
This anniversary edition sports one new feature — “Bentonville, Baseball & The Enduring Legacy of A League of Their Own” — which runs only just over twelve minutes in length, but is actually quite sweet. It sees the return of a handful of cast members (but no Marshall), including Davis, who share their thoughts on the endurance of the film. All participants look back on it as one of the most gratifying films of their careers — so much that part of this new featurette is dedicated to a League reunion baseball game, which brings back six of the original Rockford Peaches. David also uses her interview time to mention her founding of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which is dedicated to highlighting the still disparate representation of women in film and television. (More on that here.)
Along with this new featurette, all supplements from the previous edition are ported over, including the surprisingly low-key commentary with director Penny Marshall, star Lori Petty, and several other actresses, along with the nearly hour-long making of documentary.
The complete list of special features is as follows:
- NEW: “Bentonville, Baseball & The Enduring Legacy of A League of Their Own”
- 15 deleted scenes
- Nine-part documentary featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers
- Madonna’s “This Used To Be My Playground” music video
- Filmmaker commentary
- Theatrical trailer
A League of Their Own isn’t just my favorite baseball film, and not just one of my favorite films in general, but it’s honestly one of the best baseball films ever made. It’s a shame that its 25th anniversary didn’t bring with it a new 4K master, considering how highly profitable A League of Their Own has been for the studio during both its theatrical bow and its long successful life on video. (Maybe that’s what 30th anniversaries are for.) But having said that, if you don’t yet have this title in your high-def collection, then this new release is a new brainer. For those who already own it, your devotion to the film will determine if this new edition is worth it for just one new featurette. This package as it stands comes highly recommended either way.
(Thanks to DVD Talk for the screen grabs.)
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