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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Slugger's Wife (1985)

"I'm a manager, not a pimp!"
- Burly DeVito (Martin Ritt)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: March 08, 2004

Stars: Michael O'Keefe. Rebecca De Mornay, Martin Ritt, Randy Quaid, Cleavant Derricks
Director: Hal Ashby

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (mild sexual themes)
Run Time: 01h:43m:57s
Release Date: March 09, 2004
UPC: 043396103351
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Neil Simon has written some of the funniest plays and films of the 20th century, but unfortunately, The Slugger's Wife isn't one of them. From the opening frames, Hal Ashby's surprisingly bittersweet romantic comedy exhibits a laundry list of wretched qualities—strained dialogue, awkward performances, a preposterous story, and a soundtrack so grating and shrill it begs to be muted. The film starts at rock bottom and remains there, and while it tries to make an enlightened statement about the evolution of male-female relationships, its sports arena setting and silly plot conventions severely trivialize the message.

The Slugger's Wife seems more like a sketchily developed premise than a full-fledged movie, as if Simon found the idea while leafing through old notebooks in a frantic rush to fulfill a contractual obligation. The entire enterprise possesses a hastily thrown-together feel, with extended, excruciating musical numbers padding the slim story. The writing is anemic at best, and lacks the rapid-fire repartée, pointed zingers, and rhythmic lilt we expect from Neil Simon dialogue. Of course, the worlds of baseball and pop music hardly seem like Simon's area of expertise, and the author's discomfort in both milieus is immediately apparent. Watching the film, it's almost impossible to reconcile this unequivocal disaster with the man who wrote such warm, engaging trifles as Barefoot in the Park and The Goodbye Girl.

The clichéd plot focuses on the whirlwind romance between Atlanta Braves slugger Darryl Palmer (Michael O'Keefe) and aspiring singer Debby Huston (Rebecca De Mornay), and their ensuing rocky relationship. After seeing Debby perform at a local nightclub, Darryl falls hopelessly in love, and pursues her relentlessly. On the field, however, he's mired in a spiraling slump, which makes his pledge to hit a pair of home runs in return for a dinner date with Debby all the more audacious. Darryl fulfills his promise, but feels Debby alone is responsible for his newfound killer swing. As their love affair heats up, so does Darryl's bat, and he now depends on Debby to maintain his hot streak, while the Braves depend on Darryl to keep them in the thick of the pennant chase.

Much to the team's relief, Darryl and Debby soon marry, but Debby quickly tires of subjugating her own dreams, and finds her role as "the slugger's wife" and "Darryl's good luck charm" unfulfilling. She revives her singing career, and when record executives express interest, Debby jumps at the opportunity, leaving her chauvinistic husband to go on tour. Meanwhile, Darryl is closing in on Roger Maris' single season home run mark and needs Debby cheering in the stands more than ever. And with the Braves a whisker away from clinching their division, the team needs Darryl to maintain his high level of play.

All this sounds cute enough, but thanks to the weak performances of O'Keefe and De Mornay, the film never achieves even a modicum of credibility. No one could ever mistake the skinny O'Keefe for a power hitter (let alone one who could smash 61 homers), and, once she opens her mouth, it's unfathomable any record company would offer De Mornay a contract. Watching her warble such 1980s staples as Stray Cat Strut and Little Red Corvette is torture of the highest degree, and one can only imagine (with relish) how Simon Cowell would crucify De Mornay if she were a contestant on American Idol.

As someone who came of age during the 1980s and, up until a few days ago, still possessed a fondness for the decade, I must ruefully admit The Slugger's Wife effectively extinguished my nostalgic affection for that time. Ashby pummels us with the era's homogeneous music, big hair, tacky fashions, sexual squabbles, and pervasive naiveté, making this film feel more dated than black-and-white classics from the 1930s. And speaking of Ashby, how did the director of such acclaimed and artistic movies as Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Coming Home, and Being There get roped into helming this wayward mainstream mess?

Unlike its hero, The Slugger's Wife strikes out again and again and again. With so many great baseball movies and romantic comedies out there to enjoy, don't waste your time with this embarrassing cellar dweller.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Columbia must share my opinion of The Slugger's Wife, because the studio apparently didn't think it worthy of an anamorphic widescreen transfer or high definition remastering—standard treatment for many Columbia catalog releases. Instead, the disc sports a full-frame, pan-and-scan transfer that possesses about as much life as the film itself. Yes, the image is clean enough, with occasional bursts of color (especially during the afternoon baseball games), but an overall flatness predominates, and the nocturnal nightclub scenes exhibit a distracting murkiness.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround track gets the job done, although stereo separation is difficult to detect. The music often sounds shrill and Simon's bland dialogue is always easy to understand.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring A League of Their Own, Maid in Manhattan, Sleepless in Seattle
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: A few trailers for far better films are the only extras included.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Neil Simon bats a big ol' zero and makes plenty of errors with this lackadaisical, lackluster romantic comedy. The Slugger's Wife consistently fails to score, and certainly won't win the Atlanta Braves any new fans. A pan-and-scan transfer caps off this unequivocal stinker, which will even make diehard lovers of '80s kitsch cringe.


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