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Sometimes movies just transcend their time periods and remain relevant no matter how many years may have passed. On the 25th Anniversary of A League Of Their Own it still plays as an effective anthem for feminism and a delightful comedy sports comedy.
Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) is a washed up baseball player whose best days and knees are behind him, and is hired to be a manager in the All-American Girls Baseball League of 1943, while all the male pros are in the war. While resistant to managing a bunch of ‘girls’; Dugan finds himself drawn back into the game by the heroics of his all-girl team led by the indomitable Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and a cavalcade of all-stars as this true story of pioneering women has blazed a trail for multiple generations of athletes.
In what ended up being the third in a row of the films that she is the most remembered for, Penny Marshall caps off her peak period as a director with A League Of Their Own as it serves as a reminder to both men and women to follow your passions in order to really find fulfillment in life.
Both Marshall and the writing team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel keep the tone upbeat and inspirational throughout on this film and it still plays effectively all these years later. The focus stays on the ladies who played the game rather than the time period itself. It’s a group of women pulled out of the farms and the situations that they found themselves in and set out to inspire a nation during wartime. It doesn’t try to be a message movie and allows us to connect to the characters that lived this story. Ganz and Mandel make into a piece of humanity rather than a piece of history as this venture that was and still is decades ahead of its time served as a rallying cry that women could be and do much more than just be barefoot and in the kitchen. Marshall moves the story along with ease but it ultimately remains as special today as it was 25 years ago because of the magnificent ensemble cast that brought this story home.
Even though she picked up an Oscar for The Accidental Tourist and deservedly so, her turn as Dottie Hinson was easily one of the best performances of her entire career without any question. Walking the line between wholesome sex symbol and tomboyish baseball player Davis captivates the frame at every single turn and she exudes confidence and leadership at a time when that’s just not something that women did. Lori Petty was great as her plucky little sister who is desperate to get out of her big sister’s shadow while the likes of Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell provided some fantastic comic relief. Tom Hanks was great as the reprobate washed up player now forced to manage the team who gets turned around back to loving the game that he drank himself out of and officially marked the end of his more standard comedic styling’s as he moved up to bigger and better things. David Strathairn, Jon Lovitz, Bill Pullman and Garry Marshall all round out the affair but smartly know that they are taking a back sit to the ladies on this effort who truly deserve to shine.
The picture and sound quality on this 25th anniversary Blu-Ray release are pretty darn good and the special features include feature length commentary tracks from the director and the cast as well a behind the scenes documentary, Madonna’s This Used To Be My Playground music video, the theatrical trailer, deleted scenes and a trip to the Bentonville Film Festival and their annual softball game as they celebrate the legacy of the film with interviews from Geena Davis and many others.
When you really think about it, A League Of Their Own manages to be a rather unique experience of a film. It’s socially relevant and wholesomely entertaining all at the same time.