Going Dottie for Women's Baseball
Yeah, I'm just going home, grab a shower and shave, give the wife a little pickle-tickle, and I'm on my way - Ernie
The year is 1943 and with the war going on US professional baseball is suffering as its great players sign up. So Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall), the confectionary magnate, decides to launch a women's baseball league to fill in whilst the men are away. With the best players picked from around the country the league gets under way as we follow the Rochford Peaches managed by drunken Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks - Turner & Hooch) and featuring Dottie Henson (Geena Davis - Beetle Juice) and her little sister Kit (Lori Petty - Point Break).
There are 5 things which combine to make "A League of Their Own" the good movie that is. The first of which is that it is educational because quite frankly I never realised that at one time a woman's baseball league was formed when the baseball stars of the 1940's had gone off to fight in the war. It's actually quite fascinating and whilst I have no doubt that in making the story work as a movie much has been changed, such as the characters which are all fictitious but loosely based on real people, it still manages to deliver a movie which brings to light an era which many of us didn't know about. It actually does a very good job of capturing the feeling of the era and the fact that with war going on people needed something to lift their spirits, such as women's baseball but also in that part of the purpose was to have pretty girls playing the sport.
Secondly "A League of Their Own" is pure good fun, with plenty of humorous moments injected into the movie to make you smile and laugh. Right from the start director Penny Marshall balances the fun of a scene with the actual storyline, such as when talent scout Ernie Capadino walks in on Dottie and Kit milking cows and comments about does it hurt. It's innocent humour, much of which is obvious, but it works so well to keep you smiling from start to finish. Throughout the entire movie there are very few scenes which fail to raise a smile, especially the banter between Dottie and team manager Jimmy Dugan.
But whilst "A League of Their Own" is for the most a fun movie it doesn't totally hide away from delivering some seriousness and sentimentality which is the third point. With it set during the war it acknowledges the fears of the women that they may get a telegram informing them of their husband's death and in doing so manages to deliver a reasonably emotional scene. It also attempts to take in the issues of sibling rivalry between Dottie and Kit, although to be frank this is one of the elements of "A League of Their Own" which doesn't quite work. It's good that it is included but doesn't have the dramatic impact that maybe it deserved.
Fourthly, whilst the characters in "A League of Their Own" are fictitious they are all wonderful and in a way represent slight caricatures of more recognizable figures. Tom Hanks as ex baseball star turned drunken manager Jimmy Dugan is intentionally funny in every scene, as he berates women baseball players and stumbles around in a permanent drunken daze. Geena Davis is both beautiful yet forthright as Dottie Henson and Lori Petty is perfectly feisty as her resentful younger sister. These are just a few of the good characters and enjoyable performances which fill up "A League of Their Own" which also includes the likes of Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, Rosie O'Donnell and even Madonna is surprisingly entertaining as the man eating Mae Mordabito.
Finally director Penny Marshall combines all these things perfectly in a movie which has a nice energy about it and a nice pacing which makes it good all round entertainment. There are very few scenes which seem to suffer from a lull in storyline, humour, emotion or performance and even though at times it is a little heavy on sentimental nostalgia it is for the most a very good movie. At an impressive 123 minutes it never feels that long because it captures the mood and takes you on a journey. But also and probably most significantly Marshall manages to deliver just enough baseball action to keep the movie in context but not over doing it to make it just another baseball movie.
What this all boils down to is that "A League of Their Own" is truly a very good movie. It's not great because it does suffer from a little too much sentimentality but to counter balance that it is fun, educational and features both enjoyable performances as well as memorable characters. Well worth a watch.
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