“Major League” is one of the best sports movies of all time.
It was the right underdog movie at the right time at the height of an incredible run of 1980s baseball movies that included “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams.” The connection with Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Willie Mays Hayes and Jake Taylor remains strong more than 30 years later. It is my favorite sports movie.
In 1994, that cast of characters returned for “Major League II.” You can offer your best defense, but the truth is the sequel was poor. On a recent re-watch, I came to a realization that had been suppressed because of Ohio roots: You should root for the White Sox to win.
This isn’t being contrarian for the sake of being different. This isn’t an existential Cobra Kai vs. Daniel LaRusso or Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy vs. David Simms debate. (For what it’s worth, the correct answers are LaRusso and Simms.)
“Major League II” gives you no discernible reason to root for the Indians. That’s the problem, and we can defend that position in seven easy steps:
Jack Parkman is the best character
Wikipedia describes Parkman as “a selfish character.” That might be true, but the problem is that he’s the only player who produces through the first 50 minutes of the movie. He’s not like Yankees slugger Clu Haywood in the first movie.
Parkman is a catcher hitting clutch moonshots at every opportunity. The White Sox are down 3-0 in the ALCS when he smacks a game-winning three-run homer off Rick Vaughn. Yeah, Vaughn gets him in the end, but if this is real life Parkman gets on base somehow.
You might not like his one-liners or his persona, but Parkman is the only character who stays true the entire movie.
For what it’s worth, the shimmy is amazing.
‘Wild Thing’ is too erratic
If we’re playing that stupid desert island game where you pick one actor or actress from movies and TV shows (even with cameos), then I would probably pick Charlie Sheen.
You get “Two and a Half Men,” “Spin City” and “Friends” on TV, and “Platoon,” “Young Guns,” “Red Dawn” and a bunch of other ’80s movies. You’re all set.
All that said, the corporate turn and underwhelming performance from Vaughn makes it impossible to root for him throughout the movie — even during the final showdown with Parkman.
The moral appears to be that you can be a 5.50 ERA pitcher, but if you put on a leather jacket and cross-bone glasses, then you start throwing 103 mph heat.
We’re not buying that.
Hayes and Cerrano are bad, too.
Hayes is played by Omar Epps instead of Wesley Snipes, which is fine after the shock value of the first appearance. That said, they try to turn Hayes into a power-hitting Rickey Henderson type, and he can’t pull it off. Nobody could be Rickey like Rickey.
Cerrano’s transformation into a Buddhist monk is a disaster for the entire movie, and he would have been cut the second he rescued the bird in center field. This is the most disappointing flip because Cerrano was legit the coolest character in the original movie.
The new pieces don’t fit
Rube Baker should be playing left tackle at Iowa or Wisconsin, and Isuro Tanaka is a pinch-runner at best. Cerrano does not have the same dynamic he had with Eddie Harris in the first movie.
Taylor, who takes over as manager after Lou Brown has a heart attack, is a steady influence. That’s fine, but who is the leader of the team? Dorn?
You can’t root for Roger Dorn as a part-owner. He goes from arrogant third baseman to the bumbling owner in a children’s movie, and it’s not well executed. Dorn salvages that performance as a bench player, and “It’s not my bat” is an underrated one-liner. Still, this isn’t a championship owner.
There is no reason for Rachel Phelps — who is a great villain in both movies — to bale this team out.
There is no way an under-performing team with a manager with health issues and bad ownership wins the AL East.
Randy Quaid is terrible
I get what they were trying to do with the super-fan thing, but it was so much better in the first movie when you didn’t recognize those fans.
I go to a handful of Indians game every summer with the family, and whenever I hear one of Quaid’s one-liners it makes me cringe. They aren’t worth repeating in this space. Just stick with Harry Doyle, please.
That he got in Vaughn’s head should tell you how fragile the Indians would have been in a series with the White Sox.
You should root for the White Sox
The White Sox already were beating the Indians with Hank Shaw, and they added Parkman. If this plays out over social media, most fans would be rooting for Parkman to get his revenge against the Indians.
In real life, the Indians were a playoff team by 1995. The underdog story was gone. The White Sox were the up-and-coming team with the cooler uniforms.
You spend of half of “Major League II” compiling a list of reasons not to root for the Indians, and that weighs more than the turnaround in the second half of the movie. It comes down to that final showdown between Vaughn and Parkman, and the investment you put in.
Vaughn saves the day, but it does not feel the same as the first time around.
Admit it. You kind of want Parkman to knock that thing out of the park.
Maybe it would have taken “Major League: Back to the Minors” with it.
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