In 1943 Major League Baseball has been decimated by call-ups to the armed services, leaving the ladies to step up to the plate, literally, keeping the sport alive for a nation in need of escapism. Coached by drunken ex-player Jimmy Dugan the combats the camaraderie and jealousy of the girls to lead them to success.
A quick glance at the line-up suggests what one might expect from this comedy of baseball bonding bosom buddies. Re-teaming director Penny Marshall with Big star Tom Hanks, and with a screenplay by City Slickers and Parenthood writers Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, the agenda here is clearly along the lines of good-natured vignettes, smart one-liners and a healthy dose of heartstring tugging.
And, of course, it's not really about baseball at all, being in its way a kind of Pretty Slickers about sharing fellowship, jolly repartee and a few heartaches in the context of a liberating physical challenge. It's the tale of the formation of a women's professional league during World War II, when the armed forces picked the pro teams clean, and baseball's desperate bosses looked to the farms and factories for females who could play hard ball and flash their pins for the thrill-hungry fans.
Hanks, in another gem of a comic performance, is the drunken has-been with disgusting personal habits, reluctantly coaching the Rockford Peaches from a horizontal position until their abilities startle him into animation. Meanwhile, taking the field with robust assurance, is the perfectly peachy Geena Davis as farmer's wife and formidable batter Dottie. Madonna - not too stretched as team slut "All The Way" Mae - is shown off in a jitterbug number, while more screen time is given to the sibling relationship between Davis's Dottie and Lori Petty as her overshadowed sister, the erratic pitcher Kit.
It's a mostly winning combination of sassy humour and sentiment, enlivened by some fun "newsreel" recreations that catch the period flavour of a sport adopting showbiz tactics - flirty-skirted uniforms, cheesecake stunts and skin-scraping do-or-die game plays - to attract the crowds.
And, even more refreshingly, this doesn't always take the obvious route - apart from a few overly sombre moments, like the arrival of the inevitable War Office telegram in the locker room. The cast do passable impressions of useful athletes with few indiscreet long shots of actual play to shatter the illusion, and more often than not, to quote Saturday Night Live stalwart Jon Lovitz's odious scout Gappy, "Ladies, it's been a thin slice of heaven."
More often than not, to quote Saturday Night Live stalwart Jon Lovitz's odious scout Gappy, "Ladies, it's been a thin slice of heaven."