What’s the worst that could happen bringing back an iconic baseball classic back for more hijinks and fun 5 years later? When this movie came out back in 1994 and I was 11 years old and I remember this being the movie that got me most excited to watch anything baseball. I saw this in a 2-screen theater in Grand Forks, ND (where I’m from) with my friends with no parents and we enjoyed everything about this movie. But does it hold up today?
Major League II brings back director David S. Ward along with most of the cast from the original movie. Most noticeably missing is Wesley Snipes who by that time had built up a string of box office hits and was in to high of demand to get in this sequel. Omar Epps steps in as Willie Mays Hayes and does a good job but Snipes would have helped draw a bigger audience at the time. The movie was made for 25 million dollars but only squandered a mere 30 million dollars at the box office. The biggest change the studio made was going from rated R in the original to PG in this sequel. The change clearly did not pay off and left this movie struggling to connect with the adults who loved the first movie. The humor was a little more dried up and the themes were a lot less adult driven. Charlie Sheen does become the movies star and at this time in his career, he was at his peak.
The plot brings the team back as World Series contenders who are coming off winning the division title and then were beat by the Chicago White Sox. All the success from last season has changed the players in different ways. Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) cares more about his public image over his pitching, Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) than becomes a Buddhist becoming more carefree which hurts in game play, Willie Mays Hayes (Omar Epps) gets into making Hollywood movies to which makes him want to be more of a power hitter, and Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) returns dealing with knee injuries and is too old to play baseball. Every single player from the first movie is dealing with something and they all have their own hurtles to overcome. Some of these seem very realistic and then there are some that seem forced just to build some internal conflict. How each one over comes their strife’s has their own issues, but they all really seemed very rushed. This movie comes off very much like a sitcom and not as much of a theatrical movie.
To this movie’s credit, it does introduce some fun characters that help make this a better movie. The films highlight is the bad guy or the new player they bring in as an off-season signing in Jack Parkman (David Keith). Parkman is there to build conflict with the whole team and eventually a final confrontation with Rick Vaughn. He is a power hitting catcher who is arrogant and loves to be more about himself. He than eventually gets traded to the Cleveland’s rival the White Sox building up to a dramatic ALCS series between the two teams. David Keith does a really good job of selling that cocky and charisma that makes this character so unlikable. Another fun new character in this movie is also a catcher in Rube Baker (Eric Bruskotter) and he eventually becomes the heart of the movie. He start’s off the movie being talented and has one issue and that’s getting the ball to the pitcher. It’s played for laughs and is quickly fixed by new coach Jake Taylor who decides to give up his cleats to help the team in a new way. He has him recite articles from Playboy magazines to help him take his mind off the pressure of getting the ball back to the pitcher and it works. Rube also has a lot of good dialogue in this movie and you can tall that the screen writers wanted his character to come off a little dumb but with a big heart. Eric Bruskotter does a good job of pulling it off and deliver’s some of these lines with ease. The last new character they bring in is outfielder Isuro Tankaka (Takaaki Ishibashi) and he comes in with the trade for Jack Parkman. He absolutely is played for laughs and comes in with a temper and eventually helps break Pedro Cerrano of his hitting slump by getting under his skin and get him angry again. It is a fun pairing between the two and their chemistry plays out nicely.
Although this movie was panned by critics and audiences in 1994. This movie isn’t all that bad. I had some issues with how they wrapped up Rick Vaughn’s love story and his character ark and how they wrapped it way too neat and unearned along with how the wrapped up a lot of other character’s arks and how they put Tom Berenger’s character on the backburner after being the lead character in the first movie. If you put aside all the PG humor this turns out to be an entertaining baseball movie. It has some cheesy dialogue, and it does a good job of building up the stakes. I had the excited feeling today as I did when I was 11 when Ricky Vaughn comes out at the end of the movie with his original hair cut and the stadium is blaring Wild Thing. The buildup for that moment in the movie paid off and watching the matchup between Ricky Vaughn and Jack Parkman is entertaining. This sequel is not a classic by any means, but it does a good job of entertaining baseball fans and having fun for an hour and 40 minutes.
Rating: Triple! 3 out of 5 stars.