Bad News Bears (12A)Thursday 11 Aug 2005
Directed by Richard Linklater, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Brandon Craggs, Timmy Deters, Aman Johal, Troy Gentile, Jeff Davies and Sammi Kane Kraft.
'Bad News Bears' is a remake of the irreverent 1976 comedy 'The Bad News Bears'. The question is should you remake a classic? For those who believe not, this is a redundant trip down memory lane that shouldn't have been taken. Otherwise, it can be seen as a quality homage to the original.
Buttermaker (Thornton) is a former minor league baseball player who takes charge of the Bears, an incompetent Little League team. He does so for the need of money, more so than love of the game. Glory was his former life, now he lives in its shadow spending time boozing, exterminating vermin to pay rent on his trailer, boozing, picking up women and boozing.
The Bears are a group of misfits lacking any proficiency in the game. Their line up includes the overweight Engelberg (Craggs) who brings a bag of bacon to training … he's on Atkins, and a perpetually angry little loud boy by the name of Tanner Boyle (Deters). Matthew Hooper (Gentile) is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who at one point claims to have cancer of the eye and the nerdy Prem Lahiri (Johal) just needs baseball on his CV to get into college.
Buttermaker sees the obvious lack of ability in the kids and only uses it as a reason to drink, more. But when Ray Bullock (Kinnear) with his tight shorts, coach of the hated rivals Yankees, belittles the Bears, Buttermaker begins to put some passion into the training, or at least effort. He bestows sound baseball knowledge on the young team through reprehensible advice.
Things pick up for the ridiculed Bears when they inherit a fantastic pitcher in the form of Buttermaker's estranged daughter Amanda (Kraft) and the bad attitude all-rounder Kelly Leak (Davies). With this reformed team, he brings the losers at the bottom of the standing all the way to the championship final.
'Bad News Bears' has characters who are inappropriate all round. This is probably what buoys the entertainment for teenagers and adults but is also what makes it unsuitable for young children. It's a fest of cursing and rowdiness. And the fact that the fantastic humour is all about Thornton (and the children to a lesser extent) implies that the intended audience is anyone older than a child.
Billy Bob Thornton plays a blinder as a loveable curmudgeon. The team sponsors he finds, Bo-Peep's Gentlemen's Club, are as apt to his character as you could get. As well as being un-PC, drinking on the job and frequenting Hooters with the team, he's dead inside and that's what accentuates the sarcastic wit.
The first two-thirds of the film are flawless entertainment and unrelenting comedy which dies down somewhat when they get serious about ball. Though credit is due for making the baseball championship game thrilling, not exactly Gaelic football Sunday Game entertainment, but definitely watchable.
For those oblivious to the original this is one of the most entertaining films about children and sports for years, but for believers in originals, 'The Bad News Bears' has been robbed from the children for the sake of older entertainment. With oomph, humour and a little profanity, 'Bad News Bears' is great entertainment.