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A League of Their Own: 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Disc Review

A League of Their Own (1992) movie poster A League of Their Own

Theatrical Release: July 1, 1992 / Running Time: 128 Minutes / Rating: PG / Songs List

Director: Penny Marshall / Writers: Lowell Ganz, Babloo Mandel (screenplay); Kim Wilson, Kelly Candaele (story)

Cast: Tom Hanks (Jimmy Dugan), Geena Davis (Dottie Hinson), Madonna (Mae Mordabito), Lori Petty (Kit Keller), Jon Lovitz (Ernie Capadino), David Strathairn (Ira Lowenstein), Garry Marshall (Walter Harvey), Bill Pullman (Bob Hinson), Megan Cavanagh (Marla Hooch), Rosie O'Donnell (Doris Murphy), Tracy Reiner (Betty "Spaghetti" Horn), Bitty Schram (Evelyn Gardner), Don Davis (Charlie Collins), Renee Coleman (Alice Gaspers), Ann Cusack (Shirley Baker), Eddie Jones (Dave Hooch), Freddie Simpson (Ellen Sue Gotlander), Anne Ramsay (Helen Haley), Robin Knight ("Beans" Babbit), Patti Pelton (Marbleann Wilkenson), Kelli Simpkins (Beverly Dixon), Neezer Tarleton (Neezer Dalton), Connie Pounds-Taylor (Connie Calhoun), Kathleen Marshall ("Mumbles" Brockman), Sharon Szmidt (Vivian Ernst), Pauline Brailsford (Miss Cuthbert), Justin Scheller (Stilwell Gardner), Alan Wilder (Nelson), Téa Leoni (Racine 1st Base), Harry Shearer (Newsreel Announcer), Lynn Cartwright (Older Dottie), Kathleen Butler (Older Kit), Eunice Anderson (Older Mae), Vera Johnson (Older Doris), Mark Holton (Older Stilwell), David L. Lander (Radio Sportscaster - uncredited)

Buy A League of Their Own from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • 2-Disc Special Edition DVD • 1-Disc Original DVD • Instant Video

In 1943,
with World War II taking players and spectators alike from Major League Baseball, a number of executives founded a women's league. The rules were slightly different at first, the balls were softball-sized, and the now established name All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) didn't come until later. The league would last eleven years and might only qualify as an interesting footnote to the game of baseball, if not for a 1992 film called A League of Their Own.

Penny Marshall was on fire in the early 1990s. She had become the first woman to direct a $100 million-grossing film in the hit Tom Hanks comic fantasy Big (1988). Then, the true drama Awakenings (1990) made Marshall only the second female director of an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture. League would reunite Marshall with fellow early '80s ABC sitcom alum Hanks and give her a chance to tell another fictionalized historic tale unknown to the general public.

In 1943, two sisters from small-town Oregon play softball for fun when they're not working on a dairy farm. The older and taller of the two, Dottie (Geena Davis), catches the eye of a talent scout (Jon Lovitz), but she won't agree to show up at the Chicago tryouts unless her envious younger sister Kit (Lori Petty) can also go. Doubtful of Kit's skill and appeal, the scout reluctantly obliges and the girls both make the cut, getting assigned to the Rockford Peaches. Their teammates include a couple of tough-talking New Yorkers (Madonna and, in her breakout role, Rosie O'Donnell), a homely heavy hitter (Megan Cavanagh), a former beauty queen (Freddie Simpson), and a shy illiterate (Ann Cusack).

The league's owner, candy bar magnate Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall), picks Jimmy Dugan (Hanks) to manage the Peaches. A former MLB slugger whose career ended with injury and alcoholism, Dugan has no interest but financial in coaching girls, but he comes around as the team starts showing some grit. Catcher Dottie emerges as the star, to some resentment from the overshadowed Kit, who comes to be traded to the Racine Belles. Just as the Peaches and Belles are to meet in the four-team league's world series, Dottie's husband (Bill Pullman) returns from his overseas service with wounds, prompting Dottie to return home to Oregon, a decision that Dugan questions.

Sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty) go from an Oregon dairy farm to a Chicago baseball field. Tom Hanks gained 30 pounds to play Jimmy Dugan, a washed-up alcoholic major leaguer turned women's manager.

A League of Their Own is a movie whose progression you can easily map out in your mind without even seeing. With team sports movies, there is really only so much you can do. Generally, you have a struggling team of misfits pull together and succeed, turning heads in the process. The Peaches don't exactly fit that mold, but they've got their obstacles, from a disinterested mess of a coach to a league that is prepared to fold based on modest revenues.

After the heavy (but outstanding) drama of catatonic hospital patients in Awakenings, Ms. Marshall returns to a lighter tone here more befitting of her family's background in comedy. The film is careful not to treat women's baseball as a joke, while acknowledging that it wasn't taken seriously by much of the nation. The uniforms are short, belted dresses. The women are required to take a beauty school class and uphold a model of femininity. None of that is conducive to athletic competitiveness and excellence, but Dottie and her teammates nonetheless manage to impress with their assorted skill sets.

While League is never exceptionally funny or inspiring, it is plenty appealing with its history lesson, team camaraderie, and well-defined characters. It adheres to the team sports movie template, complete with one close big game claiming more attention than all the rest put together. But little touches still distinguish this, like the decision is to have the movie close with a (slightly overlong) sequence set around the then present-day in which the surviving old players are collectively admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. That scene lingers in one's mind, especially due to the spot-on casting of older actresses resembling the stars.

Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell play a pair of tough New Yorkers who aren't the most welcoming to the sisters. Garry Marshall, brother of director Penny Marshall, plays candy bar magnate Walter Harvey, who questions the future of the women's baseball league he owns.

League contributed to Marshall's streak of success, putting her back over the $100 million mark once again for what was the tenth highest-grossing film of 1992. Sadly, she has yet to helm another film as successful and hasn't even directed anything for theaters since 2001's Riding in Cars with Boys,
instead continuing to pick up the occasional acting and producing credit.

The film was warmly enough received in its summer theatrical release to be adapted into a CBS sitcom the following spring with all the same characters, but only two of the supporting cast members reprising their roles (Cavanagh and Tracy Reiner). Despite Marshall and Hanks directing episodes, the show was yanked from the schedule after three episodes and cancelled by the summer with its sixth and final episode never aired.

A League of Their Own has secured a place in the history books for its inclusion on the American Film Institute's 2005 "100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes" countdown. Interestingly, though the cast is predominantly female, it is top-billed Tom Hanks whose character's scolding "There's no crying in baseball!" cracked the list at #54. Following this movie, Hanks would proceed to be recognized as one of the world's biggest movie stars and brightest talents with back-to-back Oscar-winning performances and a string of blockbusters through the early 2000s.

League makes its Blu-ray debut next week in a 20th Anniversary edition whose contents are nearly identical to the movie's 2004 Special Edition DVD.

A League of Their Own Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French, German, Japanese, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Still available as 2-Disc Special Edition DVD ($19.99 SRP; April 20, 2004), 1-Disc Barebones DVD ($9.99 SRP; September 3, 1997) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

A League of Their Own boasts great video in the Blu-ray's 2.40:1 widescreen transfer. The opening Columbia Pictures logo looks kind of ancient, but fortunately, the movie does a good job of hiding its age, with not even minor artifacts arising. The colors are warm and solid, while the print remains very clean and sharp enough. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio, an upgrade over the DVD's Dolby 3.1 mix, isn't the most immersive, but it stays crisp and intelligible.

Ernie (Jon Lovitz) is revolted by Marla's (Megan Cavanagh) unladylike eating in this deleted train ride scene. Madonna sings from the turning pages of a scrapbook in the "This Used to Be My Playground" music video.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-recycled extras begin with an audio commentary by director Penny Marshall and actresses Lori Petty, Tracy Reiner, and Megan Cavanagh. Their casual, screen-specific chatter is unfocused but spirited,
as they spot and mention actors, recall provisional casting, and discuss their fun production experiences.

On the video side, all bonus features remain in standard definition with no subtitles.

Fifteen pillarboxed deleted scenes run 36 minutes and 56 seconds with the optional Penny Marshall introductions turned on and "Play All" selected. As the film didn't really need to run longer than the 2+ hours it does, these cuts have some worth to them. Highlights include additions to the girls' road house visit, a Babe Ruth anecdote from Jon Lovitz's character, and an arc of romance between Dottie and Jimmy.

Next up comes the music video for Madonna's "This Used to Be My Playground" (5:07). This solemn, nostalgic, Golden Globe-nominated end credits theme finds Madonna singing on the turning pages of a scrapbook, with just a few clips from the film showing up near the end. It's a cool inclusion.

Geena Davis reflects on one of her better regarded films in the 2004 documentary "Nine Memorable Innings." Madonna slides head first into third base on the Blu-ray's menu.

Last but not least is "Nine Memorable Innings" (52:27), an 11-part retrospective documentary. It catches up with the four audio commentators plus Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell, Garry Marshall, Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Lead actors not brought back, like Tom Hanks and Madonna, are represented in on-set interviews. The thorough documentary covers the film from top to bottom, beginning with Marshall struggling to get the film made and moving to casting, the actresses' athletic training, filming the baseball scenes, Marshall's directing method, the costumed extras playing the crowds, the actors, casting and shooting the Cooperstown finale, and the movie's reception and legacy.

No trailers for A League of Their Own or anything else are found here.
The film's trailer and some now dated cast/crew filmographies are the only extras from the Special Edition DVD not to show up here.

The scored menu plays clips in a wider version of the cover's diamond design. The film's subject is paid homage in bat cursors and baseball sound effects accompanying your nearly every move. The disc kindly supports both bookmarks and resuming.

As usual, Sony features creative disc art and uses both sides of the Blu-ray case. An unusual insert from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media offers some statistics on gender depictions in G-rated feature films with an opportunity to donate on the back.

Sibling rivalry doesn't get any more intense than sister pitching to sister (Geena Davis) in the 9th inning of the deciding game of the World Series.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I could see A League of Their Own being the kind of movie that enough viewings over the years could easily elevate to all-time favorite status. But on this, my first proper viewing, I found it to be a pleasant diversion and not much more than that.

Sony's Blu-ray brings nothing new to the table, but it retains the bulk of the substantial Special Edition DVD extras and treats the movie to top-notch picture and fine sound. While I wouldn't advise adding this disc to your collection blindly, I do encourage you to see the film. And the best way to see it is this Blu-ray, which is currently selling for twice as much as the barebones original DVD, but just a dollar and change more than the Special Edition DVD.

Buy A League of Their Own from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD / 2-Disc Special Edition DVD / 1-Disc DVD / Instant Video

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Directed by Penny Marshall: Big | Geena Davis: Accidents Happen • Commander in Chief: Part 1 • Commander in Chief: Part 2
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A League of Their Own Songs List (in order of use): Carole King - "Now and Forever", Billy Joel - "In a Sentimental Mood", James Taylor - "It's Only a Paper Moon", James Taylor - "I Didn't Know What Time It Was", Art Garfunkel - "Two Sleepy People", The Manhattan Transfer - "Choo Choo Ch'boogie", The Manhattan Transfer - "On the Sunny Side of the Street", The Rockford Peaches - "The All American Girls Professional Baseball League Song", Doc's Rhythm Cats - "Flying Home", "It Had to Be You", "Over There", "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", Madonna - "This Used to Be My Playground"

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Reviewed October 11, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1992 Columbia Pictures and 2012 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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