A Peach of a Movie which Delivers a Full Count
The M.O.W. - wrote on 04/21/09
As the boys went off to to fight in the second World War, "Harvey Candy Bar" owner "Walter Harvey" (Garry Marshall) decides to create an all-women baseball league.
Two players recruited are two farm girls, sisters from Iowa who are in the middle of a sibling rivalry. You have "Dottie Hinson" (Geena Davis), who the movie centers around as the movie is shown as a flashback of her memories of the days playing in the league, and her younger sister, "Kit Keller" (Lori Petty), who is unmarried and is overshadowed by her sister in the local softball league.
The two are signed to the Rockford Peaches, which is lead by a down-and-out former Major Leaguer (Tom Hanks), whose drinking problem not only destroyed his career, but his knee as well when he jumped from a hotel window to escape a fire he accidentally started in a drinking binge.
Despite the problems with the manager, and the initial negative comments from the league's critics and fans who mocked the ladies, the Peaches and the three other teams quickly gained their supporters. They also became another family for each other, giving each other support not only on the field, but in their personal lives like when one of the Peaches got the word from the government that her husband was killed in action.
However, that sibling rivalry comes back to haunt "Dottie," who the media has flocked around. Especially when, thanks to a miscommunication between team owners and her sister, "Kit" is traded to the Racine Belles.
This movie is a fictionalized story on the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which was created in 1943 by Phil Wrigley, the man behind many popular gum brands and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. It uses the names of the original four teams of the league, but plays with the history of the league's first season.
The movie begins by focusing on "Dottie", who is preparing for the league's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. When the movie flashes back, it focuses on the Peaches from her point of view. And this is done pretty well.
We get to meet some interesting cast of characters on the Peaches, including manager Jimmy Dugan (Hanks), former strip club bouncer (her father owned the club) "Doris Murphy" (Rosie O'Donnell) and "All-the-Way" Mae Mordabito" (Madonna). Now, the only problem with having so many characters is that we never get them fully developed. You get to know a little background on these characters, and see their personalities. But, in my opinion, focusing on everybody was just a little too much. I could not connect with any of the girls, which was needed to feel for one when her life is changed by the war forever.
What this movie does right is put together a really good cast. Davis and Petty really made you feel as if they were having a sibling competition with one being athletically superior to the other. Hanks was wonderful as the down-and-out manager who eventually realizes that these girls want what he couldn't have thanks to his drinking problem -- a championship. In fact, the entire fictional Peaches team were all good in their own way.
There were three pairings of actors that I loved to watch when they were on screen together. Like I said earlier, Petty and Davis were great as sibling rivals. Davis was also great when paired up against Hanks, and have one of the best comedic scenes when the two have a battle of signals to the batter. Then there was O'Donnell and Madonna, who I wish who had more scenes together. If you ask me those two were the best comedic duo in the cast.
Another thing that this film does great is the game action. From a production point of view, many of the plays were staged so they could get the shot. What else made these scenes wonderful was that the majority of the cast (one person had an on-field double) was actually playing. There is one scene where one of the Peaches is having her thigh iced. This particular scene was pretty much unscripted as that injury was legitimate (and one of the nastiest bruises I've seen).
The wardrobes for everybody is done very well in this movie. In fact, they appear to be authentic right down to the tiniest stitch.
Penny Marshall, who hired not only her brother as the founder of the league, but other cast members from her popular television series "Laverne and Shirley" (at least two regular cast members from the series appear in the movie), did a good job in the director's seat. She set up every shot nicely, especially the ones during games.
One thing that I wasn't really into was the music. I usually don't pay direct attention to the music, although I subconsciously notice it when used to enhance the scene. In this movie, I couldn't tell you any scene where the music helped the mood. In fact, the only piece of music I clearly recall is the song sung by Madonna that was played as the closing credits began to roll.
I can't say that this movie hit a Grand Slam home run, but it wasn't a balk or strikeout either. It's a good movie to add to your "To Rent" list if you ask me.