A League of Their Own – #2 in the US (July 3-5)
All-Time Domestic $107,533,928 | All-Time International $24,906,141
All-Time Worldwide $132,440,069
A League of Their Own remains an all-time Hall of Fame triumph.
Baseball remains America’s pastime. The sport is one of the few relics of Americana to stick it out. Yet, it remains a timeless sport anyone can get into, even math nerds, thanks to the statistics involved. It’s a sport that can show us how the sport brings people together when translated into a film. It shows the connections we make between the triumph and tragedy of wins and losses on the field. It can be character studies of the players and their lives. It can even poke fun at the best bits about the sport itself. I’ll direct you to “Why Baseball is the Best Movie Sport” by Patrick (H) Willems for more on why baseball works. With all those reasons laid out, A League of Their Own is the best baseball film of all time by taking all that and stirring it into a perfect stew. It plays not as a biographical look at the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League but as a tribute to tell a story of two sisters trying to make it big in the sports world. Think of it more akin to Netflix’s fantastic GLOW series than Ken Burns’ Baseball.
Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and her sister Kit Keller (Lori Petty) are recruited to join the AAGPBL as starting players. The all-girls league was established as all Major League Baseball’s players had gone to World War II. These two sisters head for the Rockford Peaches meeting with their coach, a drunk-as-a-skunk Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks). On their team is a host of great ball players, from Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnel) to “All the Way” May Mordabito (Madonna). The Peaches face challenges from men teasing them, the worry of lovers off in the war, and their road to the World Series. The two sisters, however, must see if baseball will bring them closer together or will it make them grow further apart than they thought.
A League of Their Own is a phenomenal triumph of sports film. Director Penny Marshall directed her masterpiece with this one by creating an homage to a lost league and a love letter to baseball.
The relationship between the two sisters has a definite heart to the story. Davis and Petty have dynamic chemistry that makes them believable as sisters. Dottie is the older, wiser, and taller one dwarfing Petty’s Kit. She’s curious, bold, and the more rebellious one. They constantly butt heads, but at the end of the day, there’s so much love between them that it makes the story. It creates scenes like the eventual trade of one of the sisters impactful because it feels like a betrayal. Of course, it’s a betrayal out of their hands, but that third act moment makes for a stronger ending with the two butting heads, this time on a major stage. It’s one of Pettys finest performances and one for Davis’.
Outside of that, the rest of the team is phenomenal. O’Donnell and Madonna are perfect as a pairing. They capture that feeling they’ve been friends for the long haul with inside jokes and knowing when to push buttons charmingly. O’Donnell shows how much of a comedic star she was, and Madonna shows how much of a showstopper she is. Credit where credit is due, Madonna is not that bad at acting with a good director on her side. Like Davis and Petty, this is one of their finest hours.
To see Hanks as a side character and not a lead (despite the marketing) is an outstanding choice. Hanks, as Jimmy Dugan, is a crass drunk that is foul in all the worst ways. Hanks begins in absolute misery as a wash-up former pro player. He gets better as the movie goes along (to a point). His introduction to the women on the team is one for the book with a bathroom piss that lasts about one minute. It’s hilarious that “All the Way” Mae asks if she could time it. His playing of the others is significant to being a harasser who cares, even if he yells at someone for crying in baseball. Hanks was already reaching into leading man status but had a few bombs in the years before this one. The Bonfire of the Vanities and Joe Versus the Volcano nearly put him out to pasture. A League of Thier Own destroyed any doubt he would be a star as sort of a precursor to 1993’s one-two hit punch of Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia.
It succeeds because while being a light-hearted affair, it can be a tear-jerker. The drama between Dottie and Kit can hit home for those close to their sister who admire them. I think of my sister and me a lot during this film and our clashes. They want to be happy and try to break out on their own without having to be babied all the time and feel close to home. On another front, remember that World War II is still happening as they play ball. Most women on the team have a lover or husband in the war, which means their love may die. So when the telegram comes in during a pre-game meeting, it hits like a gut punch with the tension of where it will go. It hurts more knowing Dottie hasn’t heard from her husband in three weeks. That scene gets me every time. Although Dottie’s husband appears immediately after the scene alive and well (played by Bill Pullman, as handsome as ever), it’s bittersweet tears knowing another team member lost their love.
The final part of the film at the Baseball Hall of Fame acts as an epilogue to devote time for tears to be shed, whether they are sad or happy. Seeing a snot-nosed kid who tormented the team on the bus as an adult talking about his mom, who has since passed, hits me. He was a shit-heel as a kid, but now, he is someone mourning and happy to see their mom in the museum. It’s heartbreaking, especially if those reading are a “momma’s boy” like me. Dottie revealing her husband died recently also hits knowing she is still in mourning while celebrating the time they were happy together. The eventual reunion of the sisters that ends the film also brings about happy tears, knowing that even forty-plus years later, they love each other no matter what. I’m tearing up writing about it. It’s one of the few movies I have seen that I think has a perfect ending. Hans Zimmer’s score for the finale is designed solely to make those watching cry several rivers.
A League of Their Own is a true champion of the sports film genre living up to its title. It stands above the others as a comedy classic not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.
Revue Rating: 5 out of 5
Next time, the Muscles from Brussels take on the dude who killed Apollo Creed in Universal Soldier.