Directed by Penny Marshall
Based on the story by Kim Wilson and Kelly Candaele
Screenplay by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel
Starring: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell
Dottie (Davis) and Kit (Petty) are a part of the Rockford Peaches, a team in the new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. They were among those chosen to play after a national search for talent. Along with their colorful teammates like Mae (Madonna) and Doris (O’Donnell) they’re doing everything they can to get fans to the games. Their coach is Jimmy Dugan (Hanks), a semi-sober retired player who’s trying to recreate himself in this new role. Along with the other teams, these girls are out to prove that they’ve got what it takes to keep this new league alive.
This is another baseball movie that has become a bit of a classic. The film is already part of the National film Registry of the Library of Congress. The story originally came from Kim Wilson and Kelly Candaele (When Hope and History Rhymed). The screenplay was developed by Lowell Ganz (Parenthood) and Babaloo Mandel (Forget Paris). Penny Marshall (Awakenings), known for her acting work on shows like Laverne & Shirley, directed this one. The cast includes some great names including Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Geena Davis (Thelma & Louise), Madonna (Evita), Lori Petty (Free Willy), and Rosie O’Donnell (Sleepless in Seattle). On another interesting note, Penny Marshall’s writer and director brother, Garry (Never Been Kissed) is also part of the cast as the founder of the league, Walter Harvey.
The story behind this movie comes from the formation real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. With the historical backbone in place, the writers were able to create a fictional story that really takes advantage of the era. The film does make use of some real aspects of the league, but the characters are what make this movie great. I think the film does suffer from the need to develop so many characters, and it slows down the film a few times. This isn’t a major issue, but something that is noticeable.
The writing also benefits from a great job of casting this one. Tom Hanks created a unique and salty version of the manager, Jimmy Dugan. His rough edges contrast perfectly with the cool and calm Dottie, played by Gina Davis. Add in the unique range of characters played by Madonna, O’Donnell, and Petty; and you’ve got something good.
This movie is, like many baseball movies, designed to touch on the sentimental aspects of the game. While this could have created a cheesy watered-down version of the story, it seems to make good use of it. The success is that the sentimentality builds on some of the real hardships facing these women, as well as the country in the midst of a war. The characters, while quirky, are also just charming enough to be memorable. Overall, this is a great addition to the many baseball films out there. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.