Tom Hanks Project – “A League of Their Own” Review

1 Apr

???????????????????????????????????????????????????This movie is a pure joy to watch. Expertly paced, funny and sweet with tons of great performances. Hanks is pitch perfect, but we get just as strong a performance from all everyone from Geena Davis to Madonna and especially Rosie O’Donnell, believe it or not. In the A&E Biography of Tom’s life, he says, “OK, I’m not gonna play pussies anymore” in regards to this role. Thankfully he has a great set of strong women to provide a foible to his Jimmy Dugan. 

Tom Hanks is absolutely brilliant in this film, and I think he breaks down his own acting barriers in many ways. This is the first movie where we experience his ability to fake pee, and the first movie where his characters dies in the end (from old age, but still. It feels unnatural.) This movie is a classic, so if you have somehow missed out on it, watch it IMMEDIATELY and then read on for our analysis.

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Since you have clearly watched the movie at this point*, I’ll just run down the basics of the film to jog your memory. This movie occurs during World War II, when the boys have to go overseas to fight and abandon their posts in jobs in factories and as baseball players. A chocolate tycoon (played by Penny Marshall’s hilarious brother Gary) decides he wants to capitalize on this absence, so he sends a scout** out to find talented girls who can join an all-women’s baseball league.

*It was on cable every week in the 90’s. You would have had to really go out of your way not to have seen it.

**Jon Lovitz absolutely kills as the scout. Every line he says is perfect and that mustache. That. Mustache

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Enter Dottie Hensen and Kit Keller. These sisters have been playing in their hometown for ages, where Dottie has been kicking butt as one of the most talented players ever, and Kit’s a solid pitcher but just OK at bat*. Dottie is married and her husband is overseas, but she really just wants him to come home so they can start their family. Still, since Kit is told she can only go to tryouts if Dottie comes along, Dottie is persuaded, and they make the Rockford Peaches** together with Madonna (aka Mae), Doris, Betty Spaghetti, and many more awesome ladies.

*She can’t lay off the high ones.

**We loved all the Peaches, which makes the ending so hard to take.

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Jimmy Dugan (Hanks) is brought in as a former all-star baseball player-turned-alcoholic lush to bring star power to the league as the Peaches’ coach. He’s cranky and kind of disgusting and lets us all know that “there’s no crying in baseball!” Ultimately the league becomes successful, brings in huge crowds, and then at the end of the film they open up a baseball hall-of-fame area for the ladies. In real life, the league was always successful and was only ruined by TV making it possible for small town folks to see baseball on TV, taking away attendance numbers. But having the league need Dottie to do the splits and have Mae catch a fly ball in her hat to make it more exciting and watching the crowds swell in a montage makes for a better story.

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At the end of “A League of Their Own,” Zack and I were both hoping with all our might that we could will the ending to change, for Dottie to hold on to that baseball and send Kit to the locker room, where she could have a freakin’ time out*. But alas, the movie always ends with the bigger sister hiding her skills so that her kid sis can have a moment** in the spotlight. Here’s the most frustrating part of it:  since we’ve followed the Rockford Peaches through the entire movie, we love them. From “All-the-way” Mae to, who I believe is really the heart of the team, Doris (played perfectly by Rosie O’Donnell), we’re rooting for the Peaches to win the world series.*** We don’t give two craps about Racine. Racine!! It even sounds like some evil school from the Harry Potter books, or a type of poison or something. They wear piss-yellow uniforms and their bus is BROWN!!!!! Anyway..

*She needed a cold shower, like that time she got in a brawl with Doris.

**Look at her smile. She totally dropped the ball on purpose. 

***Kind gesture, but still hate seeing our Peaches lose.

Laugh out Loud: Zack: 105  Caitlin: 87 This movie is hilarious. There are so many characters with comedic value — from Bitty Schram, who brings her son Stillwell Angel on the Rockford Peaches’ bus, to Doris’ quips and deliveries of pretty much everything she says, to “All-the-way” Mae sexualizing most situations, and then of course Hanks’ drunken Dugan — it’s a goldmine. We were cracking up left and right at this film. Having seen this movie countless times and knowing every line before it was spoken, I feared it would take a lot for me to laugh hard at much that wasn’t Dugan or Lovitz going hard for a joke. Number of laughs wise, it’s the funniest movie we’ve seen yet.

Comedy: Zack: 9.3  Caitlin: 8.5 I think this is one of the funniest films we’ve seen thus far. It’s really well-written, and exceptionally well-acted. When we were watching the bonus features, the writers were interviewed fairly extensively and they were really funny (I mean, one of them is named Bobaloo for pete’s sake) so it’s unsurprising that the movie plays out so well. It still gets me every time. Over 100 laughs is close to one a minute and this is a pretty serious movie at times. Definitely really funny all the way through. 

Cry: Zack: 0  Caitlin: 0 No tears on this one, but Zack and I both did choke up just a bit when Betty Spaghetti finds out that her husband died overseas, and then when Dottie’s husband surprises her by showing up shortly thereafter. This was the closest I got to crying. The tears started to form when Betty’s husband died and then when Bob came home to Dottie. So close. 

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Romantic Interest: Zack: 3  Caitlin: N/A I’m not sure if it’s fair to say “N/A” for this one or not, but I’m going with it because Penny Marshall herself says that she never intended for Dottie and Dugan to be together, which is a major reason she takes Dugan’s forward and pushy kiss out of the film altogether. You root for their friendship, but I never wanted the two to be together. Hello! Miss Cuthbert make out! To be fair, she did react like this after Jimmy smooches her, and he pounds some early afternoon hard alcohol to recover, but still … he does at least get a kiss. Hardly a romance to write home about.

Hanks: Zack: 9.5  Caitlin: 9.2 This is one of Hanks’ best performances we’ve seen so far. He is 100% believable as Dugan — rough around the edges but ultimately redeeming and lovable. He’s got some incredibly memorable lines in this film, not least of which “There’s no crying in baseball!” He hadn’t played a world-weary character like this yet, and he just gets this right all-around. It’s a supporting role, but wouldn’t you see a prequel to this movie just about Jimmy Dugan’s fall from big league slugger to alcoholic who fell out of a hotel window trying to escape from a fire he started? I know we’d be there opening weekend. Hanks is a perfect Dugan. It’s a hard role, but that’s what makes it great. The hard. DUGAN!

Movie: Zack: 9.5  Caitlin: 9 This movie is funny, touching, and makes you root for everyone’s success and happiness. It’s sweet without being sappy, and is a fantastic story of drive, spirit and family. Even if I wish that it ended differently, I’ll never stop watching it and rooting for the Rockford Peaches, the “all-for-one, one-for-all, All-Americans.” Dirt in the skirt! One of my all-time favorites. A true “one for the whole family” that everyone can enjoy. Only behind “Big” for me on the big list and I have a feeling it won’t be long before I watch the audio commentary on this one and see this being one of our most watched DVDs over the next decade. 

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