A League of Their Own
March 18, 2015
Todd: Okay, this is gonna be an awkward fit for a Madonna film retrospective.
- Scenes from A League of Their Own play out
Todd (VO): I have to cover it because it's the best Madonna film but, Madonna doesn't have a lot of presence in it, and also, everyone's seen it. Everyone's seen it like multiple times, and loves it, and quotes from it and remembers all the scenes. You know, they're girls that play baseball and that one girl slides in her skirt and tears up her leg, and Jon Lovitz, and then [simultaneously with Jimmy] "There's no crying in baseball"...
- Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks):...no crying in baseball! There's no crying in baseball!
Todd (VO): ...there's the other one who can hit, and then Tom Hanks takes a piss for two straight minutes. [Exact scene plays out] You know it. And if you don't... Jesus, did you not, did you not have TBS growing up? They used to play it, pretty much every day. Actually has this movie faded? I don't know, I'm getting old. Before your Legally Blonde or your Mean Girls, this was, like, the chick flick that everyone knew even if you weren't a chick. So, reviewing it is kind of like reviewing Star Wars, 'cause everyone's so familiar with it.
Todd: But is it actually any good?
- The Rockford Peaches: [singing] We're the members of the All-American League
- We come from cities, near and far.
- We have Canadians, Irishmen and Swedes...
Todd (VO): No black women though.
Todd: That one's gonna have to wait a little bit. One step at a time.
Todd (VO): So, A League of their Own is based on a real league that existed in the '40s and '50s: the All-American Girls Professional League. You know the forties, that was a time when a lot of stuff about women's roles changed 'cause all our men were out killing Nazis in [brief clip of Saving Private Ryan] a different Tom Hanks movie. So back home, the women had to pick up the slack doing stuff that men usually did. In this case, that also included satisfying our need to watch grown adults play a silly meaningless game.
Todd: Seriously, why do we watch sports?
- Jimmy: Baseball is what gets inside you; it's what lights you up. It's supposed to be hard. The hard, is what makes it great.
Todd: I guess? I mean, it's hard to memorize all 649 Pokemon, but i wouldn't, exactly call that great.
Todd (VO): But anyway yeah, we wanna see some baseball if we gotta have ladies doing it instead of men, well, it'll have to do. So it's a baseball movie and it takes place in the forties so...
Todd: ...naturally it's a little corny.
- Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz): [talking about Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanagh)] I can't use her.
- Dottie (Geena Davis): She's great, why not? What's the problem?
- Ernie: You know General Omar Bradley?
- Dottie: Yeah?
- Ernie: Well there's too strong a resemblance.
Todd (VO): It's actually kinda really corny in parts.
- Jimmy: May our feet be swift. May our bats be mighty. May our...balls be plentiful.
Todd (VO): Like the mean, drunk, angry, sarcastic, edgy character is played by Tom Hanks. [Image of Tom Hank's front cover for Esquire] So yeah, I guess that's why I've always kinda held this movie a bit of a distance; it's always struck me as a little, obvious and easy.
(Scene with female conservative radio announcers protesting against women in baseball over the radio.)
- Announcer: ...careers and higher education are leading to the masculinization of women with enormously dangerous consequences, to the home, the children and our country. Young girls plucked from their families, are gathered at Harvey field to see which one of them can be the most masculine.
Todd: Oh yeah? Well...
Todd (VO): ...take this, outdated gender roles from fifty years ago!
- Heckler: Girls can't play ball! [Imitating the team] Look at me! I'm a ball player!
- [Ellen Sue (Freddie Simpson) throws the ball right at his head]
Todd (VO): Yeah, showed you!
Todd: And sexism was never a problem again.
Todd (VO): Ah, that's not fair. If it was so obvious, they would've made that movie already and they hadn't. Nor have they really made one since. Nowadays our girl teams compete in [brief clip of Pitch Perfect] a capella competitions for some reason. And even in 1992, I remember girls in sports still being, pretty controversial; there was all this uproar over Title IX, and it's not like women's pro leagues are thriving even now.
- Ira Lowenstein (David Strathairn): Harvey and the other owners think they've made a mistake. Uh, they're talking about closing you down.
Todd (VO): Matter of fact, A League of Their Own is kinda structured weird for a sports movie because there's no real, bad guy or, rival team. There's no [clips of Cool Runnings...] evil East Germans or [...Karate Kid...] Cobra Kai or [...and Space Jam] giant cartoon aliens to beat or anything like that because...
Todd: ...the bad guys that the girls are trying to win the big game against is...
Todd (VO): ...[in a big booming voice] the crushing thumb of the patriarchy!, which is not something a well-placed sacrificed bunt is gonna do much about. So there's no real narrative drive to win the game because basically they're winning every second that they still exist. Now I'm a soccer guy personally, and, as an American soccer fan, yeah, I totally...
Todd: ...get that mentality.
- [Clip of a MLS match between Houston and Orlando]
- Announcer: Mistep the game, Pedro Rivero. A chance. (Honestly, I'm not sure what the guy is saying here)
Todd (VO): "It's okay we lost guys, cause everyone's a winner because we got to put on an entertaining show for all the fans."
Todd: Now, I know this kind of mentality sounds lame.
Todd (VO): So, because there's nothing really on the line, the movie's more like a bunch of short vignettes without a real plot to link them up. Jon Lovitz makes a big entrance and then leaves fifteen minutes into the movie.
- Ernie: Goodbye.
- Dottie: Wait, you're going?
Todd: Oh and here's Rosie O'Donnell subplot:
- Helen (Anne Ramsay): Doris, is this your boyfriend? Now looks aren't the most important thing.
- Doris (Rosie O'Donnell): That's right. The important thing is he's stupid, he's outta work and he treats be bad.
- Kit (Lori Petty): Then why?
- Doris: Why? What do you think cause, y'know... none of the other boys ever uh... always made me feel like I was wrong, you know. I believed them too, but not anymore you know. I mean look here. There's a lot of us. Hey give me that.
- [Doris rips up the picture of her boyfriend and throws it out the bus window.]
Todd (VO): And that's it! That's the entire arc.
Todd: Subplot over.
Todd (VO): Madonna doesn't even get a subplot, she's just there to say something scandalous every five scenes or so. [Scene of Mae leaving the confession booth, with the priest looking very hot and bothered] "Ha ha, she dirty-talked a priest!" I mean her scenes are funny...
- Mae: What if, at a key moment in the game, my, my uniform bursts open and uh, oops, my bosoms come flying out? That, that, might, might draw a crowd, right?
- Doris: You think there are men in this country who ain't seen your bosoms?
Todd (VO): I mean, they're not four minutes of Tom Hanks peeing-funny but, you know, pretty funny. Granted, being shockingly scandalous in an old-school '40s kind of way is not exactly stretching for her. And it's funny to watch what kind of bullshit they had to put up with back then. First off, they have to wear those short skirts to show off their legs, even though those are ridiculous to play baseball in. Good thing female athletes don't have to put up with that anym... [an image of an newspaper article: "FIFA President suggests tighter shorts for women"] ...oh, yeah. Also, they have to go to charm school. Yeah that's some bullshit, I'm guessing no male baseball players ever had to do that. [Clip of a brawl at a baseball game] Which, honestly, maybe, that wouldn't be a terrible idea.
- Jimmy: Anyone ever tell you you look like a penis with a little hat on?
Todd (VO): He does! He does look like a penis with a hat.
Todd: I wonder what it was like to show up for the casting call: "guy who looks like penis with hat".
Todd (VO): Now technically, this is a Geena Davis movie, and it's the rivalry between her character, Dottie, and her sister Kit that gives the movie any forward momentum. Kit is jealous of Dottie because Dottie is always so great; better than Kit.
- Kit: You ever hear how Dad introduces to people? This is our daughter Dottie. This is our other daughter, Dottie's sister.
Todd: Thing is...
Todd (VO): ...Dottie is better than Kit, in like every way because Kit's just not very good not only as a player but as a person.
- Kit: Finish it right here. Let's put this turkey out.
- Jimmy: What do you think?
- Dottie: She's done, she's throwing grapefruits at them.
- Later, in the change room...
- Kit: I know is you could've backed me up today! Instead of holding me back!
Todd (VO): You were sucking! Do, do you not understand why relief...
Todd: ...pitchers exist? What aren't you getting about this?
Todd (VO): The movie would probably be better if Kit was likable in some way, but she's really not. She's a whiny brat, such a winy brat that she winds up traded to another team, the same one that Dottie's team plays in the finals. And right before that, Dottie also leaves the team because her man's home from the war, but she changed her mind and shows up for game 7, so, see it is still your normal sports movie
- Dottie: You look like shit. Do you ever shave?
- Jimmy: We're gonna win. WE'RE GONNA WIN!
Todd: No you're going to lose.
Todd (VO): Directly because you just subbed in a player with demonstrated commitment issues.
Todd: Sorry to break it to ya.
Todd (VO): Yeah, like all sports movies, it does come down to one play. And Dottie loses the game by literally dropping the ball and Kit wins.
- Dottie: Do what you gotta do. You just beat me, you wanted it more than me.
Todd: Yeah, no kidding.
Todd (VO): I always thought Dottie dropped the ball on purpose but, um, rewatching...
[Scene of the final playoff with Kit aggressively approaching Dottie. Cut to a clip from The Waterboy]
- Chris Fowler: There's a lot of pain and shame in those eyes.
- Leo Corso: It's all over.
Todd (VO) Yeah, I'm pretty sure Kit would've ripped the ball out of Dottie's fingers if she had to. Even though Kit's not a very likable character, she's a necessary one because she's the only one to throw cold water on the whole, "yay sisterhood" atmosphere in the movie. [Clips of Hope Solo] One of my favorite women's sport stories, is about how Hope Solo, the American soccer star, has changed our entire preconceptions about women's sports by being a stupid drunken idiot with a shitty attitude and all her teammates hate her, but you know what, she's the best so who gives a crap about being BFFs with her, let's just goddamn win. So Kit wins because she's the only one who really needs it, and I guess she gets over her resentment because, yeah, a championship will definitely get you out of a more talented sibling's shadow. Ask Eli Manning. I'm not sure that's a satisfying ending cause what Kit needed to learn was how to be a better loser and less of a shitty teammate but, yeah, y'know, whatever.
- Ira: Well Walter what do you say?
- Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall): Alright, Ira. We'll stick with them.
Todd (VO): And for as cheesy as this movie can be full of cheap girl power moments, I like how it doesn't really have any real big victories. Obviously we know the league isn't gonna last, and the league's best player quits after one season to go support her husband and she doesn't even seem to really regret it; that's just what women did back then. Yeah, in the end, they don't actually manage to turn the wheel of progress very far, but they definitely did something in a pretty tough environment, so you know, props to them. And like I said, not a lot of Madonna in this one. Her and Rosie O'Donnell are like the wise-cracking, fat-skinny duo, you know, like, the ones that pop up constantly in movies. And she gets one nice little monologue.
- Mae: What am I supposed to do huh? Go back to taxi dancin'? 10 cents so some slob can wipe his sweat and gin all over me?!
Todd: And uh, that's about it.
- [End Credits play with "This Used to Be My Playground".]
- Madonna: This used to be my playground.
Todd (VO): Oh right, yeah! That! Um...
Todd: ...even in, a well-written, eminently likable movie in which she gives a perfectly good performance, Madonna has to make sure that the film she's in sucks in at least one major way, and that is in her contribution to the soundtrack, "This Used to Be My Playground", which stands a good chance at being the very worst song of her career.
- [Clip of "American Life" with Madonna rapping]
- Madonna: I'm drinking a soy latte
- I get a double shote
- It goes all through my body
- And you know I'm satisfied.
Todd: Worse than that one.
- [Madonna on stage on The Blonde Ambition Tour, performing "Hanky Panky"]
- Madonna: Like hanky panky (hanky panky)
- Nothing like a good spanky (good spanky).
Todd: Worse than that one also.
- [Cut back to "This Used to Be My Playground"]
- Madonna: I can see your face in our secret place...
Todd (VO): Look, the early '90s was a lot less enjoyable than people like to remember. Easy listening still ruled the world, and Madonna was not immune to it. This song sucks. It's the, it's the only Madonna song I can imagine being sung by Phil Collins or Michael Bolton. [Cut back to end credits] It's like a DJ at the end of the night trying to clear out the dance floor. "Movie's over, go home."
Todd: So yeah, that was A League of their Own. I'm, I'm glad I have that one out of the way; it was a little intimidating. And I hear some of you asking, "What's with all the positively lately? Aren't you gonna get to more bad movies?" Well, don't worry, after a few years of making movies that were not actually the worst thing in history, Madonna will be making a stunning return to form.
- Trailer for...:
- Rebecca Carlson: The women hate me, they think I'm a whore.
- Joanne Braslow: Men don't marry women like her.
- Rebecca: And the men see a cold heartless bitch they can pay back for every chick that's ever blown them off at a bar.
- BODY OF EVIDENCE
Closing tag song: Carole King - "Now and Forever"
"A League of their Own" is owned by Columbia Pictures
This video is owned by me.
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS