The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
When famous pitcher Bingo Long (Billy Dee Williams) realizes that his team's owner Sallie Potter (Ted Ross) will always keep his players working on the cheap, he contacts heavyweight slugger Leon Carter (James Earl Jones) to create a player-owned baseball team: The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. Getting together some true talents and crazies including Charlie Snow (Richard Pryor) they become barnstormers, playing local teams for cash. But when the Negro League team owners hear of this, they plot to keep Bingo's rag-tag outfit down so their players don't get the same idea. Led by the vicious Potter, the owners hire toughies to threaten Bingo's competition into not playing, even knifing one of Bingo's players. And if you don't think this is heading for an all-or-nothing sporting event with some kind of last-minute invention where somehow the thing Bingo's team needs more than anything shows up at the last possible second, then you've probably never watched a sports movie in your entire life. Like most dramatic accounts of real events, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings as directed by John Badmam and produced by Motown's Berry Gordy is a film where everything that's actually interesting about it is also peripheral to the plot; taking the real exploits of sluggers like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson and fictionalizing them, it makes their interesting story a routine one. That said, the actors are very good for those who only know him as Lando or the Colt 45 pitchman, Billy Dee Williams is a charismatic lead, and for those who only know him as the voice of Simba's father, or Luke's (or CNN's for that matter) James Earl Jones is an actor who can carry a picture. The two have good chemistry as partners, and are complemented by the likes of Pryor, Stan Shaw, and Ken Foree. The 1939 period setting is well maintained through the locations and costuming, and the baseball playing is engaging. Even the script by Matthew Robbins and Hal Barwood has a germ of a good idea, as Long's team becomes a paradigm for the democratic ideal. The only problem is that it requires the team to go through the standard Bad News Bears situations such as the climatic game, which is like watching the Harlem Globetrotters play interesting, but in your heart of hearts you know there's no way they can lose. Universal's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and monaural Dolby 2.0. The major extra is a feature-length commentary by director Badham. Theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, production notes. Keep-case.