Major League II (1994): Part 1 of 2
Director: David S. Ward
Producer: James G. Robinson and David S. Ward
Writer: R.J. Stewart
Cinematographer: Victor Hammer
by Jon Cvack
Released five years after the original, Major League 2 is the kind of film where the reluctance to preserve what worked in the first is sacrificed for some of the most uninspired character developments I’ve ever seen in a film. Keep in mind that this takes place the year following their Division Championship against the Yankees in the original film (for the non baseball fans, this is like winning the first round of playoffs; not necessarily cause for a grand celebration). For some reason, the players didn’t just shift and change as a result, but went through absolutely ridiculous transformations that are so exaggerated and unrealistic that it took about half the film for me to accept them as serious. The problem is that while the first film was so adamant about portraying baseball tropes, superstitions, and processes and the players’ obsessive need to retain and honor them, this film decides to ignore all that, with each character abandoning what made it work in the first place.
Let’s start with Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) who even though loved by fans for his “wild” nature, including his spiked mullet trademark haircut, decided to clean up his image in order to secure better sponsors and a more attractive girlfriend. It’d be one thing if he remained an ace pitcher, struggling to retain the relationships with those who got him to that point, possibly culminating in losing his focus or touch near the end of the season as their absence ate away at him, but instead he sells out and loses his edge. I don’t know all that much about baseball, but as shown in both this film and other baseball movies, if you change something up and it’s not working, I imagine the first thing you do is go back to what worked. The thing is Vaughn must have known that his clean cut image was impacting the play - if not for his physical performance, then for the impact it’d have on attracting larger sponsors. Instead, even though he’s performing abysmally, he just keeps going at it, long past when you think he’d change, where when he finally reconciles his relationships with the school teacher and her super fan students, he again abandons them after a couple of Breakfast Cereal Executives take an interest in him, leaving you to face the fact that this subplot is going to drag until the very last minute, making his girlfriend look a bit pathetic for taking a guy back who has hurt her so many times, and only after he won the world series. If this was all resolved a bit earlier it could have worked, leaving us to focus on the other players.
It doesn’t stop there. You then have the epitome of superstition and highly temperamental Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) who has ditched the aggressive attitude and VooDoo Magic for Buddhism and peace of mind. We don’t know why Pedro decided to switch the beliefs that seemed to have gotten him and his team to the Division Playoffs. It’s safe to assume that the Indians didn’t get to the World Series, so I guess by a leap in logic, we could say that by failing in the postseason he wished to explore alternative possibilities. Yet like Vaughn, we’re left wondering how - if Buddhism clearly isn’t working - why he’d retain the method when the alternative seemed to work so much better? For a man that’s wildly superstitious, neither he nor Vaughn nor their coaches seem to think of this solution.
Bringing us to Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), who was the most interesting character from the original film, fighting to get his girl back, while battling his aging body. Although he never really had a knee problem in the first film, suddenly it’s overwhelming him. It’s the closest the story gets to an interesting character, as management brings in a new catcher Jake Partman (David Keith), who keeps throwing over the second basemen's head, which is funny because literally days before watching this a friend of mine mentioned having this exact problem in high school, causing him to quit the game. Taylor’s best advice for Jake starts out with thinking of Playboy magazine models, eventually shifting to lingerie catalogues. I’m not entirely sure why this works, and the joke goes on so long that it surpasses any sense of humor, becoming near rotten in the end, causing me to squirm every time we had to hear about this issue, leaving Taylor as possibly one of the most underdeveloped characters I’ve seen as of late, functioning as nothing other than the horny, dumb jock guy.
Continue to Part 2...
BELOW: Randy Quaid's the best part
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