Whew, what a relief. I hate when I can't follow a film, and I was afraid it'd happen again Friday night. But, to my delight, I was able to fully understand and enjoy Major League II, despite the fact that I'd never seen the original.
After a long, hard week of work at Apex Driving School, I decided to kick back on the couch and treat myself to a night of television-watching. After ordering a pizza, I started flipping through my TV Guide, hoping to find something good. But as hard as I looked, nothing really seemed up my alley: There were the Daytime Emmy Awards on ABC, some boring old musical on TNT, and four straight Saturday Night Live reruns on Comedy Central.
There was, admittedly, Major League II on Cinemax. But despite my love of baseball, I fretted that I'd likely be lost in the plot, not having seen the 1989 original.
Sure, I could've bravely forayed into the 1994 Sheen-Berenger vehicle, but what if every other line of dialogue referred obliquely to something from the original film, making it impossible for me to follow the plot? I certainly didn't want to relive my Mannequin 2 debacle of 1991. On the other hand, I needed something to watch, and I needed to make a fast decision before my pizza got cold. Besides, maybe I'd get lucky, and Major League II would open with a montage of clips from the original, a device many of the better sequels employ to help viewers "get in the spirit" of the original film.
After a few moments of deliberation, I resolved–not without some trepidation, mind you–to commit to the 8:10 p.m. showing of Major League II on Cinemax.
I needn't have worried! The film opened with a concise rundown of the major characters from Episode I, cunningly presented as "Indians talk" on a Bob Uecker-hosted sports-radio show! Uecker was not playing himself, though: He was Harry Doyle, a character who, from what I could gather, figured heavily in the first installment, as well.
At any rate, the opening recap, helpful as it was, was almost unnecessary: The movie's characters were so real, so richly textured, I instantly felt like I knew them. It was clear what was going on right from the get-go. In the previous season, the Cleveland Indians had rallied from being a rag-tag bunch of losers to winning the pennant. Episode II picks up at the start of the following season, with old pals reunited and ready for more good times. But an ominous question looms over their heads: Has success changed them?
I am sad to say that the answer was a resounding yes. No one illustrated this complacent, fat-cat mentality better than Charlie Sheen's Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn, who arrives for the first day of spring training in a limousine. Now, since I'd never seen this character before, you're probably thinking, "But, Don, how do you know it's a change? He might have ridden in a limousine throughout the first movie!"
In this scene, the screenwriters clearly took pains to anticipate any potential confusion on the part of those who didn't see the first film. Wild Thing's fans are all waiting for him to show up to spring training, and when a guy rolls up on a bad-ass motorcycle, they justifiably assume it's him. But, as it turns out, it's someone else, and the fans are all surprised. This surprised reaction is not merely funny; it gives the uninitiated a solid idea of what they're supposed to expect from Wild Thing. So when Wild Thing steps out of the limo in a suit and yuppie haircut, and the fans are disappointed and confused, we instantly recognize that a profound change has occurred in this character's life, whether or not we saw the first movie!
Needless to say, I am now hooked on the Major League franchise. In fact, when I was at Suncoast Motion Picture Company the next day, I made a point of picking up a copy of the prequel. Even better, they had a marked-down copy of the third installment, 1998's Major League–Episode III: Back To The Minors. I watched it that night and loved it, even though Wild Thing and a lot of the other central characters from the first two movies weren't even in it.
My best advice to the uninitiated would be to see the Major League movies in order. But if you can't, don't worry: Each movie truly does stand on its own.