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'Major League II': A Hit Despite Its Strikingly Predictable Plot

KIDS ON FILM

April 14, 1994|RICK VANDERKNYFF

In "Major League II," the Cleveland Indians are back after a championship season, but some of the star players (played by Charlie Sheen, Dennis Haysbert and Omar Epps) seem to have lost some of their drive in the off-season and need to rediscover their spark. (Rated PG).

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A scrappy underdog beats the odds and achieves undreamed-of success.

If that basic plot is at the core of just about every sports movie ever made, a slight variation often fuels their sequels. The team, spoiled by success, starts to get cocky, distracted by the temptations of fame, and loses sight of the things that made it a winner in the first place--only to regain its balance in time for the rousing big-game finale.

That, in a nutshell, is at the heart of the two top-grossing movies now playing: "D2 The Mighty Ducks" and "Major League II."

Oh, to be young again, when the banal cliches of such Hollywood product seemed fresh.

The kids in the audience at a recent screening of "Major League II" were either oblivious to the predictable plot turns or were willing to overlook them in exchange for an hour and 41 minutes of entertainment.

Reaction among youngsters at the Tustin Marketplace was uniformly positive, although it stopped well short of wildly enthusiastic.

Said Aaron Faiola, an 11-year-old from Irvine, "It was funny." But even as he said it, he shrugged his shoulders.

Aaron, admittedly more of a hockey fan than a baseball fan, added that he liked "Major League II" better than "D2," which didn't have enough jokes for his taste.

"I didn't like it," he explained. "This was better."

Zac Tull of Anaheim, 7, came down on the other side of the "D2"/"Major League 2" debate. The hockey film, he said, was funnier, and its ending was more satisfying: "They went against people who were a lot bigger and still won."

Zac did enjoy "Major League II" though, he said, adding that Rick (Wild Thing) Vaughn was his favorite character.

Vaughn, played by Charlie Sheen, is the reckless young Harley-riding pitcher who carried the team with his fastball in the first film. This time around he's gone straight, trading in his leather vest for a suit and tie, and losing his drive (and his fastball) in the process.

Others returning from the first film (released in 1989) include Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), who has traded in voodoo for Buddhism and, um, lost his drive in the process, and Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes in the first film, Omar Epps this time), who has gone Hollywood in the off-season, and lost . . . oh, you know the rest.

Other returnees include Tom Berenger as Jake, the catcher who turns to managing this time when his bad knees finally end his career. Bob Uecker is the team's radio announcer, in the film's funniest turn.

The team is the Cleveland Indians, our national symbol of hapless desperation, who in the first film scrapped their way to the playoffs. The new film picks up the following season, which starts dismally but--you guessed it--turns around when the team rediscovers its soul. The Chicago White Sox, dressed in black, play the bad guys in the playoff finale.

Kids in the Tustin audience seemed to respond best to the humor (often crude, but no more so than in many TV shows these days), the big-game finish and the character of "Wild Thing," who benefited from a rousing, high-decibel rendition of the pop novelty tune that inspired his nickname.

Even non-baseball fans gave the film a thumbs up. Jeremy Heydon, 7, of Orange admitted he doesn't really like the sport, "but I have lots of baseball cards."

The movie was good, said Jeremy, getting a supporting nod from his 8-year-old sister, Amber, who chipped in that she liked "Wild Thing" the best and thought the movie was funny.

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