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On July 1, 1992, Columbia lined up A League of Their Own for its big screen debut. The baseball film went on to be a summer hit, grossing $107 million stateside. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Columbia’s new marketing team has got a tricky pitch to make this women’s baseball movie.
Indeed, luring females to a 1940s baseball yarn will be a challenge. While men have always been keenly interested in viewing women’s athletics, namely assessing Katarina Witt’s ice-skating outfit or enjoying the intricacies of mud wrestling, getting them to a movie about “girls baseball” ranks right up there with getting them to take out the garbage. Surely, Madonna will draw some first weekend fans, but with her dyed-black hair and fully clothed limbs, she is playing a bit out of position here.
If the marketeers get this warm and scruffy charmer on base the first weekend, A League of Their Own will leg out a solid summer run for Columbia. Score it as an extra-base hit, appealing to fans of all ages and in all seat sections.
In this sharply stroked, World War II-era comedy, Geena Davis stars as Dottie Hinson, a baseball playing, Oregon farm woman whose athletic skills and leggy looks catch the fancy of a baseball scout (Jon Lovitz) who signs her, and to cinch the deal her kid sister (Lori Petty) as well, to a professional baseball contract. Since DiMaggio and the other boys of summer have traded their pinstripes for World War II uniforms, a crafty Chicago candy magnate (Garry Marshall) has formed a women’s baseball league, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, in four blue-collar Midwest towns to fill the sports void caused by the war.
Latter-day showmen in the Bill Veeck-Charley Finley mold, they realize their best chances of bringing out red-blooded sports fans to the ballpark will be to emphasize the curves, and they’re not thinking pitches here. They outfit the women players in short skirts (very daring for the ’40s) and play up their feminine virtues in the press.
Women’s baseball teams, not surprisingly, are not much different off the field from the New York Yankees, the Bad News Bears or even the Durham Bulls; in short, they’ve got their own colorful share of screwballs and straight arrows. Like Bull Durham, the film’s highlights are the locker room scenes, the team bus rides, the personal asides — who says women don’t bond?
While centering their story delivery around the sibling rivalry between Dotti and her insecure younger sister Kit, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel nicely advance this yarn with a fast-cracking mix of comedy, period color and even manage to catch the corners with some striking social observances, namely conveying ’40s attitudes toward women.
Under Penny Marshall’s spirited, warm direction, the players shine: Davis, whose catching skills could win even a grunt of approval from Crash Davis (Kevin Costner’s Bull Durham character), is the team standout with her rich portrayal of the down-home wife/big sister/team leader. A can of chew to Tom Hanks for his big-gutted performance as the downsliding team manager and a tip of the brim to Garry Marshall for his herky-jerky performance as the crusty candy man. As the fastest player around the bases, Madonna flashes her skills to the max.
Despite an unnecessary and decidedly schmaltzy extra-inning denouement, Penny Marshall’s direction is as sharp as the crack of a bat: By shrewdly presenting the baseball scenes in fast-cutting, action-packed montages, she will silence the macho bleacher bums who may nitpick about the players’ skills and by fully utilizing her top technical team, in particular composer Hans Zimmer’s big-band, swing-swing-swing type beats, she keeps the frames alive. — Duane Byrge, originally published on June 29, 1992
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