Major League (a classic), 1994's Major League II (pretty bad but entertaining) and now, the trilogy trifecta, 1998's Major League: Back to the Minors (just bad, but entertaining).
A lifelong minor league player, Gus Cantrell (Scott Bakula) is on the last legs of his career as a pitcher, and he's trying to decide what the next step in his life is. Gus is approached by Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), now the owner of the Minnesota Twins, but he needs a manager to groom his Triple-A team, the South Carolina Buzz. Cantrell takes on the job, knowing the team isn't exactly ripe with ready major league talent. What he finds is much worse, a team of castoffs, screw-ups and has-beens, but Gus takes it on just the same, trying to teach the team how to be quality baseball players. That's one thing though because the Twins manager, all-around a-hole Leonard Huff (Ted McGinley), has quite the rivalry with Gus, making the new manager's job that much more difficult.
Okay, here we sit. I'll be giving this movie a mildly positive review. Does it deserve it in the least? Nope, not really. This movie is an epic dud, but I like it. I'm entertained every time I watch it. There is absolutely no reason to actually follow up the equally dud-ish Major League 2 with an even worse sequel. It tanked in theaters, recouping very little of its $46 million budget (where that money went I don't know). There's no explanation of why the story is the Twins instead of the Cleveland Indians, or how Dorn ended up as their owner. There are some ties to the first two movies, starting with Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker as foul-mouthed radio man Harry Doyle, Dennis Haysbert as Pedro Cerrano, voodoo-Buddhist and power-hitting outfielder, Takaaki Ishibashi as intense, crazy outfielder Taka, and Eric Bruskotter as Rube Baker, the goofy catcher who struggles throwing. Other than that, there's not much in common.
Okay, here we are again. I did like this movie. I swear I did. My earlier budget question is legit. Where did this money go? It was filmed in South Carolina at some backwoods-looking baseball fields. There's no Triple-A team in the world that would play at these rinky-dink stadiums. The cast for the most part doesn't look like or act like baseball players, especially when they're actually on the field. Making it worse is the use of the worst special effects I've ever seen. Anytime a baseball is hit or thrown, a CGI ball is used instead of the actual ball. Ever seen a curveball just hang there? A home run hover? It looks so ridiculously fake that it's laughable. Other than that, I swear it's an entertaining movie.
Mostly, I liked this movie because of the characters. Bakula is solid in a familiar role as the baseball lifer, a guy without the skill but all the work ethic instead. Bernsen is Bernsen as not-so-clueless anymore Dorn. The new additions in the baseball department are certainly an eclectic group, including Downtown Anderson (Walton Goggins), the egotistical power-hitting prospect, Lance (Kenny Johnson), the player with a ballet background, Hog (Judson Mills), a Wild Thing-esque pitcher with a fastball and little else, Pop (Thom Barry), the aging outfielder turned first baseman, Doc (Peter Mackenzie) the intellectual junkballer, and three different actors playing twins, the Buzz's double-play combination, Juan 1 and Juan 2. It's a collection of fun characters that if familiar and from the stock character department, so be it. They're a likable bunch.
As far as baseball reality goes, this is not close to any sort of baseball I've ever watched. Minor league teams play major league teams, managers punch each other in the face in public and are rewarded, batters charge the mound but no one moves to stop them. I'm a baseball nerd so be forewarned -- the little things bug me -- before heading in. This isn't a good movie, but I like it anyways. If it was a stand-alone movie, maybe it wouldn't even be on my radar. But with the quasi-link to Major League, I'll watch it whenever it's on TV. Lousy, a stinker, stupid from the start, I still like this one. Start watching below.
Major League: Back to the Minors (1998): ** 1/2 /****