Major League: Back to the Minors contains a very telling lyric in its closing song: "Our ball club may be minor league But at least it's triple a" And there you go. The third installment of the popular Major League series really isn't aiming very high.
Back to the Minors does everything it can to broaden the audience for the first two movies. That sentence is read: They tried to make it family friendly. There are a couple of obscene words in the movie, and the manager of the parent club, the Minnesota Twins, has a cocaine habit. Okay, actually no one ever says or even lightly implies that Twins manager Leonard Huff has a cocaine habit. It is just a conclusion I deciphered completely independently, on my very own, from simply knowing what I know about the effects of cocaine and watching the skittish, manic performance of Ted McGinley, who plays Huff. Other than that, Back to the Minors smoothes out the rougher edges of minor league baseball, a grave mistake that the first two Major League movies both avoided. At least there isn't a romantic subplot and/or a kid in Back to the Minors.
The back of the DVD package trumpets the returns of five series stalwarts, but that's only five who appeared before out of, well, a lot. Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano, Taka Tanaka, Rube Baker, and Harry Doyle were the ones from the previous installments. The missing characters are felt: Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, Willie Mays Hayes, Rachel Phelps, Jack Parkman, and Lou Brown are all nowhere to be found. Now we have a pitcher named Hog Ellis, a power hitter named Bliiy "Downtown" Anderson, a former ballet dancer named Lance Pere, and an aging outfielder-turned-first baseman named Frank "Pops" Morgan. Gluing it all together is a career minor leaguer named Sean Archer. Actually his name is Gus Cantrell, but he's played by Scott Bakula, who will forever in my mind be associated with the captain in the world's most regrettable Star Trek series, which forever brands him as Sean Archer.
Back to the Minors clearly takes place in the original Major League canon, but it also pretends the previous installments never existed. Tanaka, Dorn, Cerrano, and Baker all appear to have some kind of past with Cantrell which is never mentioned. Doyle was apparently demoted. And the Cleveland Indians, the team from the first two Major League movies, were apparently moved overnight to Minnesota and renamed the Twins. Oh, wait... Apparently the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins exist together as independent entities. My bad. So we have an entire player network which was lifted and moved from one team to another without any explanation whatsoever. This isn't addressed; the players are all in Minnesota's system now, the Tribe is never mentioned, and the players who know each other forget everything that happened before Back to the Minors took place. Okay, I'll work with that. But it's strange that a movie which came out in 2000 would choose the Twins over the Indians. The first Major League movie was a grandiose daydream written by a diehard, tortured Tribe fan (that's mentioned in the making-of documentary on the DVD) in 1989 when the Cleveland Indians were in one of the many nadirs they dropped into. By the time Back to the Minors came out, the Indians were beginning the last leg of a multiyear run as one of the most feared teams in the American League, which culminated in two Pennants.
Bull Durham got a portrayal of minor league baseball right because it was written strictly with a councilling of a player in mind. The managers cared about the team probably because they were always worried about their jobs. The players only cared about getting called up to The Show. Back to the Minors is your typical worst-to-first story about a sucky team that gets a new manager and begins to dominate the league with a gaggle of lovable goofballs and a little bit of teamwork.
Strange again, though, that the Buzz never get to play an actual championship. Major League: Back to the Minors is here strictly to embarrass fans of the Twins, it seems. The real championship in Back to the Minors is a game at Buzz Stadium against the Buzz's parent club from Minneapolis. This game, by the way,is taking place strictly because Minnesota's skittish manager had the Metrodome lights cut at the very last second of an earlier game against the Buzz which he was about to lose. Basically the second half of the movie is a redux of the first half of the movie because had they just used the first half, the whole thing would have ended well short of feature length.
Back to the Minors, to its credit, captures the quirks so revered in minor league baseball. But that's all they are. These aren't quirks developing naturally out of the characters. They're in the movie to be the defining traits of everyone while Gus walks around being a good old boy. Cerrano is still into his faith, Huff is some kind of arrogant speed demon lacking self-control, Lance eventually leads the Buzz through ballet training, and Tanaka is trying to find peace of brain. Harry Doyle, played by the great, funny, witty quip artist Bob Ueker, is up in the booth again.
The jokes really aren't that funny. Gus is first seen throwing a frozen ball, which is amusing, but there is a family atmosphere dominating the movie and so the raunchiness and vulgarity which made the first two Major League movies so much fun aren't anywhere. Ueker, playing Doyle, seems to be the only one trying to rescue the mediocre comedy. He reads his lines with verve and spirit, but also an intensity which is suggestive of the fact that he sweating through the movie knowing how awful it is. Doyle's comments in this movie aren't really funny, but a lot of his actions are just mean-spirited, and so Doyle just isn't very likable.
One of the few other credits I want to hand out to Major League: Back to the Minors is that it's so far the only Major League movie which doesn't get bogged down in a main character love story. Gus has a nice, beautiful dame on his arm named Maggie, but her standby role is done straight. There's no implications of leering, cheating, or relationship problems that affect the way Gus manages the Buzz. In fact, she gives him occasional good advice, which he sometimes takes, and so she would be his grounding agent if he had any issues which needed grounding. The movie doesn't get caught up in any issues between them, and the closest they come to a fight is when Gus punches out Huff at a dinner in Minneapolis.
People, I never was fond of the Major League movies. The first two are grossly overrated. Now, they both have funny jokes, are well-made, and have great heart and effort put into them. My problem is they ultimately get dragged down too much in cliches, especially the first one. But Major League: Back to the Minors is more like an exclamation point at the end. It's the kind of dumb exclamation that results in facepalms.
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