Major League (1989)
Directed by David Ward
The day after Charlie Sheen opened his controversial spoken word tour, I thought it was more than fitting to re-visit his role as the “Wild Thing” in Major League. Starring Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, and, of course, Charlie Sheen and written and directed by David S. Ward, Major League is the ultimate story of sticking it to the man…or woman. In the movie, the new owner of the Cleveland Indians has high aspirations. However, she aspires for her team to get last place. This would effectively lower the attendance low enough that she could move her team to Miami. She recruits, as right fielder Willie Mays Hayes says in the movie, “a has-been and a couple of never-will-be’s” to play awful enough to scrape the bottom. However, things don’t go as planned. The team starts bad but gets better, and slowly becomes a contender.
In this movie, casting was the key. With a fun but predictable storyline, it was the characters that made this movie great. From the very beginning, Wesley Snipes played the lively, lovable speedster, Willie Mays Hayes. His character earns his way on the team by outrunning players even with a late start. Playing the lovable manager Lou Brown was James Gammon. He doesn’t play the cliché, gruff, tough manager, but one that has fun. Dennis Haysbert, now known primarily as the voice of Allstate insurance, plays Pedro Cerrano, a voodoo-practicing Cuban who can hit the skin off a fastball but falters when the ball has any movement. His funny antics trying to use voodoo to make his bat work add an interesting twist to the story. As the optimistic and hilarious commentator Harry Doyle, Indians longtime commentator Bob Uecker stars. His hilarious one-liners were some of the funniest in the movie, and he did an excellent job of acting. Of course, Charlie Sheen plays the rookie, Ricky Vaughn, with a fastball so fast and crazy it earned him the affectionate nickname “Wild Thing.” In one scene, when Vaughn unknowingly cheats on the third-baseman, Roger Dorn’s (Corbin Bernsen) wife, she says “You look like you could use a friend.” How true even today for Charlie Sheen, 22 years later! Last, but certainly not least, the many actors who played the Indians skeptical but supportive fans should get credit. Their small parts helped the movie along by showing what the fans thought of their team, starting with “It doesn’t look too good,” then “They’re not too bad!” and finally ending with the packed stands of the last game of the season, with cheers and unanimous support.
Music was used superbly to compliment most scenes in the movie. Music editor Ellen Segal did a wonderful job choosing different tracks to use at specific times during the movie. The movie began with “Burn On” by Randy Newman, as various clips from different Cleveland landmarks are shown. As the movie progressed, the music began helping the audience follow the emotions of the scene, without the character having to say it. It acted almost like an omniscient being for the movie, knowing everything about everyone. Finally, the last game against the Yankees provided one of the greatest uses of music in a movie I have ever seen. Whenever the whole audience gets involved in a common song, it wins me over. And that is just what happened. For the last out of the top of the 9th inning, the Indians brought out Sheen’s character, the Wild Thing, to his natural theme song, “Wild Thing” by Chip Taylor. As he slowly walks the long trek from the bullpen to the mound, the audience holds their signs, shows their shirts, and sings the song in support for their favorite rookie pitcher. Watching it, I could not help but sing along a little myself.
With lovable stars, a fun plotline, and catchy music, Major League earned almost $50 million dollars for a reason (more than “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” in 1989). Charlie Sheen shines as one of his most beloved characters since Platoon, and his costars add to the movie’s greatness. The excitement of all the extras adds a contagious buzz to the film, and anyone watching is drawn into the fun. The music, especially “Wild Thing” near the end, does a great job complementing each scene in the movie. While other baseball movies throw “Juuuust a bit outside,” Major League is a total home run.