Director: David S. Ward
Writer: David S. Ward
Cinematography: Reynaldo Villalobos
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
Having read a bit more into the game, I now understand the many references that would have otherwise gone completely over my head. Bull Durham is regarded as the baseball fan’s movie (quoted extensively in "Men at Work"), containing countless references and jokes that only the most diehard fans would pick up upon. For instance, in Major League, when Wild Thing is in the locker room, he sees one of the older pitchers with vaseline rubbed all over his arms and chest so that he can throw a spitball (which has an fascinating history if you read it, but basically is a ball with vaseline or any other lubricated substance on it that affects the throw by making it move erratically through the air - similar to the Knuckleball [again look up history or watch the Netflix Documentary] creating a danger to the batter), with the older pitcher admitting that he’s doing whatever it takes to keep his edge. Another player, with a beautiful face and who plans to take his career beyond the field, fails to make a play one game because he didn’t want to risk hurting himself, ruining his trade or non-player opportunities. Each player represents the stereotype that is often associated with the position, or that you could picture in your mind when reading about what the position demands. Tom Berenger epitomizes the concept, playing catcher Jake Taylor, where if you read about the catcher, is the most difficult defensive position on the team, and as one friend explained to me, basically controls everything on the field - from identifying weaknesses, calling the signals, or coaching the pitcher if they get into a rut. Jake is the Indians biggest advocate, wanting to win the series for no reason other than to prove Rachel Phelps wrong, inspiring the team to work together and win.
Two things don’t really make sense - one being that even though most of these guys were pulled from the minors, or straight from civilian life, they’re somehow able to perform vastly better when discovering that they were recruited solely to fail. I guess it’s a common underdog story, but given all of Phelps' admissions of deliberately choosing the worst players it was difficult to ingest. The larger issue, though, is that the Big Game in the movie is really just a one game qualifier in order to get into the playoffs, with the movie ending immediately after. Like any Big Game, it’s exciting to watch and knowing the mechanics of the game made it more enjoyable, but then you realize that it really isn’t that big of deal. Sure, it might have saved the team from moving to Miami, but it’s as though the story was cut prematurely when they realized that they couldn’t possibly make a 5 or 7-game series as exciting as a one off game. For that reason it works; it’s just that when it ends, I was left wondering “and then…?”
Jake Taylor’s other story is trying to get back his old athletic lover, Lynn Wilson (Rene Russo; who really is the best love interest in a sports movie [see Tin Cup]), who has gotten together with a rich businessmen and not all that inspired character. We know where it’s going, though again, given your preconception of a slapstick comedy, there are genuinely touching moments. Other scenes fall victim to the 80s misogyny often discovered in comedy films from the period, such as motivating the team to win by getting a life sized bust of Rachel Phelps, covered in leopard skin cut outs, which they’ll remove one by one for each game, until she’s finally wearing nothing but underwear, making you wonder if it was always just underwear, or if it was once meant for the more offensive gratuitous 80s boobage. You can’t help thinking of how that would have played in today’s world, and while it doesn’t take up too much of the focus, it’s still there, showing the film’s age.
It’s a fun summer time comedy, perfect to watch while reading and watching baseball, once that last game ends on a Sunday night.
BELOW: The greatest walk up song in movie history (also made me understand what a walk up song is)
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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