Awash in sentimentality and manic energy but only occasionally bubbling over with high humor, A League of Their Ownhits about .250 with a few RBI but more than its share of strikeouts.
A comic look at the first season of the women’s baseball league in 1943 [based on a story by Kim Wilson and Kelly Candaele], Penny Marshall’s gangly fourth film benefits from a fresh, unusual subject, the joy of baseball being played by women having the time of their lives and a wonderful central performance by Geena Davis. Downside includes contrived plotting, obvious comedy and heart-tugging, some hammy thesping and a general hokiness.
Once the teams are picked, most of the obvious plotting possiblities pop up: the attempts of the women to skirt the strict behavior code, the marriage and departure of one of them, the death of another’s husband at war, the gradual improvement of their play and resulting growth of popularity and respect, and the inevitable, cornball showdown between rival sisters.
Adding a little testosterone to the recipe is Tom Hanks, a former big-league star who sees life from so deep in the bottle that he virtually sleeps through practice and the initial games.
Of the large cast, Rosie O’Donnell stand out as the brash, smooth-fielding third basewoman, and Megan Cavanagh makes an impression as the dumpy slugger who finds unexpected romance on the road. A brunette Madonna plays a predictably sassy and irreverent type who shows her underwear whenever she can, and Lori Petty is irritatingly petulant as Davis’ cry-baby little sister.
Despite the lavish budget, period feel isn’t fully realized, as locations are pretty much restricted to ballparks and boardinghouses. An extraordinary effect is created by the appearance of Davis’ character as an older woman at the beginning and end. Davis reportedly dubbed the line readings.