Baseball Movie Review: Little Big League
Little Big League is a 1994 baseball comedy about a kid becoming the manager of the Minnesota Twins. It stars Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, John Ashton, Kevin Dunn, Jason Robards, and Ashley Crow. It is one of the best baseball movies of all time. High praise.
Little Big League is a simple and silly premise, but carried out thoughtfully and realistically. Billy Heywood is the 12 year old son of widowed Jenny. His paternal grandfather is Thomas Heywood, the owner of the Minnesota Twins. When his grandfather dies suddenly, Billy inherits the team, the stadium, everything. The Twins are presently a losing franchise, being managed by a hothead. After some issues, Billy fires the manager, and through circumstance makes himself the manager of the team.
Little Big League has a ton of heart. Billy Heywood is a very sympathetic and friendly character, and really draws our empathy for the struggles of a kid. He has fun, but he's never grating on the nerves like so many other "put a kid into an adult situation" movies can be. He does his best to be a grown up, and we are all there with him.
The other players are all top notch. While Little Big League lacks a lot of notable acting talent, it's a surprise high point for the movie. Ashley Crow is fantastic as Billy's mom and moral compass. You really believe she is Billy's mom through their many witty interactions. There's a strong ensemble for all the Twins' ballplayers, which balance Little Big League out nicely.
Little Big League is well written and directed. Family movies can wallow in melodrama quite often. One time director Andrew Scheinman keeps things moving, and balances comedy and drama well. There is also a ton of heart, as you really feel for the ups and downs of Billy's roller coaster ride at the top. While the plot may seem contrived and an element of pure fiction, it never really feels that way while watching. You really buy into the story.
Little Big League is also a fantastic baseball movie. Baseball movies have an unfortunate history of being... well not that good, as it is a tough game to accurately depict on screen. Other times the focus is on the drama or comedy, making it seem like a "really funny movie where they happen to play baseball," or "a romantic drama where one of the characters just so happens to be a pro ballplayer." Little Big League respects the history of the game, and plays into the strategy of it as major plot points. The list of good baseball movies might be short, but Little Big League has a spot inside the top 10.
A couple bonus points to add: -There are a ton of real life MLB player cameos. Several hall of famers, in fact. -There are no "you are supposed to cry here" moments like most family movies force in. -There's a ton of baseball imagery, with scenes at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Comiskey Park.
I enjoyed Little Big League thoroughly, both as a kid and as an adult. As a child, I was obsessed with baseball much like 12 year old Billy was, so it spoke to me more than most movies. As an adult, it's wonderfully nostalgic to that era of baseball. Originally I was going to give it an 8/10, but there's no real weaknesses or bad parts. It is smart, funny and touching. Not much more you can ask for.
Little Big League: 9/10: One of the best baseball movies of all time.