DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main
COLUMBIA TRISTAR

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Penny Marshall
Cast:
Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, Garry Marshall, Bill Pullman, Megan Cavanagh, Rosie O'Donnell
Writing Credits:
Kim Wilson, Kelly Candaele, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Tagline:
Once in a lifetime you get a chance to do something different.

Synopsis:
Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna star in this major-league comedy from the team that brought you Big. Hanks stars as Jimmy Dugan, a washed-up ball player whose big league days are over. Hired to coach in the All-American Girls Baseball League of 1943 - while the male pros are at war - Dugan finds himself drawn back into the game by the heart and heroics of his "all-girl" team. Jon Lovitz adds a scene-stealing cameo as the sarcastic scout who recruits Dottie Hanson (Davis), the "baseball dolly" with a Babe Ruth swing. Teammates Madonna, Lori Petty and Rosie O'Donnell round out the roster, taking the team to the World Series. Based on the true story of the pioneering women who blazed the trail for generations of athletes, A League Of Their Own is a "home run."

Box Office:
Budget
$40 million.
Domestic Gross
$107.458 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 3.1
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 128 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 4/20/2004

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Penny Marshall and Actors Lori Petty, Megan Cavanagh and Tracy  Reiner
Disc Two
• ”Nine Memorable Innings” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Madonna Music Video
• Filmographies
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


A League Of Their Own: Special Edition (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 1, 2004)

A League Of Their Own pulls off one of the most difficult tricks in filmmaking. While it clearly falls into the category of stereotypical "chick flick," it nonetheless manages to be a thoroughly entertaining and satisfying film for the males in the audience - even for a raging he-man such as myself!

Much of the credit for this accomplishment falls at the feet of director Penny Marshall. She ably transferred all the lessons she learned in front of the camera as a fine comedic actress in fare such as Laverne and Shirley and The Odd Couple to her work as a director. Here and in Big, Marshall displays a skill for maneuvering through scenes both comic and dramatic with a deftness that many directors lack.

A League Of Their Own follows the standard route most sports films take in that we observe our team through a season that inevitably builds toward a championship game. One difference between this film and many relates to the fact that when we finally get to that "big game," we don’t feel completely sure for whom we should cheer.

That's because the film's main storyline involves the sibling rivalry between naturally successful Dottie (Geena Davis) and younger sister Kit (Lori Petty), who struggles to escape from Dottie's shadow. (Not easy, considering Davis is about 17 feet tall!) Tensions between the two simmer and eventually boil during the course of the movie, and though they spend much of the season as teammates, Dottie inadvertently gets Kit traded to another team right before the World Series. (Naturally, the other team is their Rockford Peaches' rival for the championship.)

Normally, of course, we would root for the Peaches. Since Kit's now on the other side, however, this makes our choice more complex. In the end, the film manages to have its cake and eat it too; only one team can win, of course, but the conclusion works in such a way that the audience feels content with the ending.

Again, this finale to the season not only could have failed but probably should have failed; any time a film seeks to placate all sides of an issue, it usually bombs. This situation works because Marshall makes it work; she maintains the scene with a light enough touch that the entire circumstance seems natural.

I can’t overstate the subtlety with which Marshall directs most of this film. As a "woman's film," A League Of Their Own stood a terrific chance of falling into many of the traps that befall a lot of films from the genre. Many of those movies really telegraph their emotions, and the characters really tend to wallow in melodrama. That doesn’t occur here. Although the theme that it's hard for a woman to make it in a man's world certainly persists throughout the film, and each main character gets a scene in which she tells her little side of that struggle, these bits are brief and well integrated into the action. As such, we learn that Doris (Rosie O'Donnell) has a bum of a boyfriend back home, but clearly her self-esteem has now risen to the point that she's willing to forget about him. This segment takes about two minutes of screen time, it tells us all the backstory about Doris that we really need to know, and it completely avoids the mawkishness and self-pity into which most movies would descend.

Marshall also escapes that trap in regard to the sibling rivalry theme that runs through the film. It presents a refreshing lack of touchy feely scenes in which the sisters "explore their feelings" and try to accommodate each other. We clearly understand both of their perspectives, and we can also empathize with both characters. Dottie's clearly unwilling to roll over so Kit can artificially succeed, and although she may maintain a bit too high a level of intensity - Dottie's definitely ultra-competitive - she maintains the proper attitude; success should be earned, not given. Geena Davis grounds Dottie with a high level of pragmatism and determination, and she never comes off as nasty or petty, both of which became dangers for that role.

Still, we also clearly feel for Kit, since virtually everyone knows what it's like to be stuck in the shadow of someone more skilled than themselves. Lori Petty plays Kit with enough determination and grit that although her character definitely could have seemed like a simpering crybaby, she never falls into that trap.

Really, the only elements of this film I found unnecessary and overly sentimental were the contemporary bits that frame the movie. For a few minutes at both the beginning and ending of A League Of Their Own, we witness modern-day Dottie as she goes to a reunion of female ballplayers that takes place at the Hall of Fame. The meat of the film actually comes as a flashback in which elderly Dottie reminisces about those long-ago days. While the present-day bits didn’t seem bad, I simply think that they we didn’t need them. They prolong the film without much reason and they add little to the movie's emotional impact; sometimes it's fun to see what happened to the characters in later years, but nothing here tells us much of interest.

The thoroughly top-level cast combines with Marshall's succinct direction to make A League Of Their Own a winner. In addition to Davis and Petty in the lead roles, Tom Hanks does some of his best work as bitter drunken ex-ballplayer Jimmy Dugan. In a role loosely based on real big leaguer Hack Wilson, Hanks provides many of the film's comic sparks, but he doesn't allow his character to degenerate to the level of simple clown. Hanks manages to convey the lost pride inherent in his fallen hero, and we truly believe and accept the growth the character displays.

I admit I'm pretty much in the bag for Hanks, as I've been back since the days of Bosom Buddies. Nonetheless, I liked him more in A League Of Their Own than I have at any other time except for Big. Is it a coincidence that Penny Marshall directed both of these films? I doubt it. For whatever reason, these two seem to spark the best in each other.

Also memorable is Madonna, who makes a rare appearance in an actual good movie. I'm also very much in the bag for Madonna, but only as a musician, not as an actress. With rare exceptions, her film work has been dreck. Those exceptions seem to occur only a) when she works in comedic roles; and b) when she's there only as a supporting actress, not as the star. A League Of Their Own clearly matches those criteria. It's tempting to add that Madonna also needs roles that don't stray far from her personal image, since her best-realized pieces tend to stay pretty close to home. However, that's not the case; acting as a sexually provocative character in Body of Evidence sure didn't help.

I used to be in the bag for Rosie O'Donnell before she got her baby and her TV show and then turned mean once the latter ended. At least I have movies like this where I can watch her and remember how much fun she used to be. I did find it strange that the film makes much of teammate Marla's (Megan Cavanagh) extreme unattractiveness, since the folks behind the scenes at the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League wanted only hotties to play, but little mention is made of how inappropriate Rosie looks in these surroundings. It makes sense from a film point of view not to dwell on that issue - expanding on the relative ugliness of two players would have been too much - but it lacks logic in the real world.

That and a few other minor quibbles aside, A League Of Their Own works tremendously well as both comedic and dramatic fare. It’s a movie that both men and women can enjoy and it seems like a very successful offering.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C-/ Bonus B+

A League of Their Own appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed edition was examined for this review. Although much of the movie looked glorious, enough problems cropped up along the way to make League good but not great.

Sharpness mostly seemed fine. Occasionally, wide shots came across as a little ill-defined, but those examples occurred infrequently. Instead, most of the flick was nicely detailed and concise. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement popped up along the way. Print flaws showed up sporadically but caused some distractions. I noticed periodic examples of grit, marks and specks. These weren’t heavy, but they created some issues.

Colors seemed excellent. Despite the period setting, the film kept the hues natural, and they consistently looked vivid and dynamic. The tones were nicely rich and seemed quite distinctive. Blacks were deep and firm, and most low-light shots came across well. Some appeared a little dense, such as night-time images on the bus, but the shadows usually were solid. Overall, League fell short of consistent greatness but usually seemed very positive.

Although the package lists a Dolby Digital 4.0 mix, instead the DVD presents a Dolby Digital 3.1 soundtrack. This meant it presented three channels across the front plus support from the subwoofer but with nothing from the surrounds. The front three channels offered a decent sense of atmosphere. Music showed good stereo imaging, and the track came to life in a gentle way when necessary. The ballgames provided a nice feeling of environment, and louder scenes like the dance at the gin joint also brought us fair development. The track lacked great scope and could have used some surround ambience, but it still seemed fine for what it was.

Audio quality mainly worked well, with one exception: that LFE track. The bass was rumbly throughout the movie; even when nothing much should occur, I heard some distracting low-end. When the mix got more active, the bass became too dominant. This occurred for both effects and score, as they showed too much bass and overwhelmed the mix too much of the time.

Otherwise, the sound seemed acceptable. Speech occasionally betrayed some edginess but mostly seemed natural and concise. Effects appeared accurate and clean, without distortion or other issues except the heavy bass. In addition, the low-end caused the only problems with the score, as the music otherwise seemed clear and vivid. Ultimately, the audio of League appeared decent but somewhat flawed.

So how did the picture and audio of the new DVD compare to those of the original release from 1997? To my surprise, the old one both looked and sounded better. The biggest visual difference came from the original release’s greater lack of defects. While the 2004 disc didn’t suffer from tons of flaws, they showed up decidedly more frequently and prominently than with the past one. The 1997 release also looked a little crisper, though that different was minor.

As for the audio, while the old one showed some boomy bass, it wasn’t as annoying as with the 2004 disc’s low-end. In addition, the prior release showed a slightly broader soundfield, as it included some surround material. That element made little difference, as the rear speakers played a very minor role; the main improvement in the old DVD came from the less obnoxious bass. The 1997 DVD didn’t blow away the quality of the 2004 one, but it seemed superior nonetheless.

While the original DVD included no supplements, this new special edition packs some good materials. On DVD One, we launch with an audio commentary from director Penny Marshall plus actors Lori Petty, Megan Cavanagh and Tracy Reiner. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific track. While not a terrific piece, this discussion seems generally informative and entertaining.

Not surprisingly, Marshall dominates as the quartet addresses topics connected to the movie. Among other things, they go over training for the actors, elements shot but not used, Marshall’s directorial style, casting, and dealing with various logistical challenges. The three actors mostly toss in anecdotes from the set, many of which deal with Madonna. At times, we get some generic happy talk, and Marshall often tends to just tell us the names of participants. Nonetheless, the conversation moves briskly and offers a mostly fun look at the movie.

As we move to DVD Two, we find a lot of that cut material Marshall mentioned in the package’s 15 deleted scenes. We can watch these with or without introductions from director Penny Marshall. With the intros on, the entire set of snippets runs a whopping 36 minutes and two seconds.

Some excellent material appears here. We find a mix of extensions to existing scenes plus many that don’t exist at all in the final film. A good deal of them are quite funny, and we get segments that also elaborate on the sexual tension between Jimmy and Dottie. We find out the real reason Dottie cried after Betty’s husband got killed and see many other nice moments. It’s a fine collection of clips.

Marshall’s introductions mostly just set up what we’re going to see. Sometimes she gives us specific reasons for the deletions, though she implies the majority got the boot due to time reasons. The introductions don’t add a lot, but they’re short, and they’re informative enough to merit their use.

The disc’s other major extra presents a documentary called Nine Memorable Innings. It should come as no surprise that the program splits into nine chapters plus “pre-game” and “post-game”; via the “Play All” option, it runs 52 minutes and 12 seconds. It includes the standard mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from director Penny Marshall, writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and actors Lori Petty, Tracy Reiner, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Garry Marshall, Tom Hanks (from 1992), Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, and Madonna (from 1992).

The program goes through a number of subjects. They talk about the films background and research, its path to the screen, casting, training, costume issues, shooting the baseball sequences and other notes from the set, Marshall’s approach and personality, anecdotes about the various actors, working with the older actors, and general reflections. The tone seems rather thin and fluffy, but a reasonable amount of good information appears. The mini-chapters go through the material fairly efficiently and it all goes down painlessly. I’d prefer less happy talk, but this remains a decent documentary.

Next we get the music video for Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground”. The song’s not exactly Maddy’s crowning achievement, but for a sappy ballad, it’s not bad. The video’s also decent but not better. It presents lip-synch clips from Madonna as part of a photo book. It’s a moderately clever execution of a standard format. It also tosses in some movie clips just like every other “music video for a song from a film” ever made.

A few other minor extras finish the package. In the Filmographies area, we get entries for director Marshall, screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and actors Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, Garry Marshall and Rosie O’Donnell. The Previews section includes trailers for Brian’s Song, The Natural and League.

One disappointment in the extras department comes from the absence of a supplement that showed up on the old laserdisc. It had a documentary about the real women’s baseball league that inspired the film. Perhaps Columbia no longer had the rights to this and couldn’t include it here, but I still would have liked to get it as part of this package.

How can you resist a movie in which a ballplayer signs his autograph, "Avoid the clap - Jimmy Dugan"? I can’t. A League of Their Own presents a terrific film that works for a wide variety of audiences. While the disc presents very good picture, the audio seems below par, and neither comes across as well as they did on the original release of the DVD. This set includes some very nice extras, though.

I like A League of Their Own too much not to recommend it, but which version to recommend becomes a problem. The special edition provides a good collection of supplements, but the original DVD offers moderately stronger picture and audio quality. If you don’t care about extras, definitely get the old disc. If the supplements matter to you, I’d recommend the special edition. You lose a little in the picture and audio quality, but I think the extras make up for those issues. I remain disappointed that the new set displays weaker quality in any way, though.

To rate this film, visit the original review of A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN