Bad News Bears Movie Review
Thus was born the lackluster remake of 1976's "TheBad News Bears."
Once an edgy but family-friendly Little League comedy fullof cursing pre-pubescent underdogs and starring Walter Matthau as theirbooze-hound coach, this 2005 version -- starring Thornton, co-written by"Bad Santa" screenwriters, and lazily directed by the usuallycreative Richard Linklater -- has lost both its bite and its heart.
Thornton's uncharacteristically flat take on the characterof coach Walter Buttermaker -- a trailer-park bum and exterminator by tradewho once played half an inning in the pros -- has little of Matthau's cantankeroushound-dog congeniality. His "who cares" attitude toward his baseballteam of delinquents, nerds, over-eaters, immigrants and paraplegics soonbecomes humorously motivational abuse, then "win at all costs"obsessiveness, then "just have fun out there" altruism withoutmuch rationale beyond the screenplay's say-so.
About half the kids are terrible actors, and in severalscenes it feels as if Linklater ("BeforeSunset," "WakingLife," "Schoolof Rock") just gave up trying to get agood take out of them, leaving many jokes falling to the dugout floor witha wet thud. The central plot about the players' come-from-behind transformationinto a cohesive team has similar problems: Linklater shows their failings(accompanied by music from Bizet's "Carmen," in a nod to theoriginal) and later shows them winning, but offers up very little strugglein between. In fact, several story developments are referenced but nevershown.
The only coherent improvements to the Bears come with Buttermaker'srecruiting of an ex-girlfriend's puberty-stricken, 12-year-old tomboy daughter(likeably sullen Sammi Kraft) as the team's new pitcher (played more memorablyby Tatum O'Neal in 1976) and a 13-year-old motorcycle-riding bad boy (JeffDavies) as its star batter (played far more memorably by Jackie Earle Haleyin '76).
"Bad News Bears" (these days Hollywood rarelybothers using "The" in movie titles) does hit several home runswith bad-taste one-liners ("You guys swing like Helen Keller at api=F1ata party") and sucker-punch scenes that toy with convention. Whenthe coach's attempt at a genuinely motivational speech to his players fails,he just starts screaming at them -- and it lifts their spirits.
But there's nothing about this remake that feels freshor refurbished. In fact, with the exception of keeping the original's untraditionaltwist to the big-game finale (which Linklater slides right past withouteven pausing for suspense), it feels less like "The Bad News Bears"and more like the kind of cliche-riddled sports-underdog comedies thathave been ripping off "The Bad News Bears" for 30 years.
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