Release Date: 22 July 2005 in USA
Rated: Rated PG-13 for rude behavior, language throughout, some sexuality and thematic elements
Genres: Comedy, Family, Sport
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Sammi Kane Kraft, Ridge Canipe, Brandon Craggs
I didn’t want to like this film. I didn’t want to like Billy Bob Thornton in a role that Walter Mathau made famous. I was dragged to this film by an eight year old who loves to play Little League. By the end of the film, he had to drag me away from the screen.
The Bad News Bears has been updated for a new generation. It stays true to the original story, with a few twists. Billy Bob Thornton plays Morris Buttermaker, an ex-baseball player, turned exterminator. He’s surly; he’s drunk; and, he’s mean – and that’s on a good day. He gets hired by an attorney Liz Whitewood (Note: in the original, it was a man who was the attorney!), played by Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River).
Buttermaker is supposed to turn this group of misfit, ragtag kids into a baseball team. It’s a tall order. He has a few Latinos on the team who don’t speak English. He has a boy in a wheelchair. He’s got a foul-mouthed little brat, a chubby kid and a bunch o’ weaklings and nerds to round out the politically-incorrect hilarity.
Buttermaker is unorthodox. He gets a local strip club to sponsor the team and has his charges help him with home exterminations; but, he seems to be getting through to the kids. With the addition of his ex-girlfriend’s daughter, Amanda Whurlitzer (Sammi Kane Kraft) and the resident bad-boy, Kelly Leak (Jeffrey Davies), the team gets some pitching and hitting power. They even start winning games.
This brings out the anger of the Little League powers that be including Greg Kinnear, who is hilarious as Coach Roy Bullock. They didn’t want the Bears in the League. They cut these kids because they couldn’t play. This is sort of a testament to how competitive and mean-spirited children’s sports can get.
When the team gets to the championship, Coach Buttermaker makes some strange decisions. He tries to win at all costs, which really upsets the team. They all want to play. In the end, he realizes that the love of the game is what it’s all about. So, he lets the benchwarmers in. The parents, most of them, are very upset. They thought that the kids should continue winning. Amazingly enough – the parents wanted the team so that the kids could just play. Then, when they win, they just want them to win.
Hmmm? Statement perhaps?
Don’t worry. The film doesn’t get too preachy. At the end, the Bears don’t win. They do enjoy themselves immensely; however. They drink some of the non-alcoholic beer and vow to return next season.
I smell a sequel. Hopefully not.
Anyway, the Bad News Bears doesn’t have all the schmaltz of the original. It’s not exactly politically correct, either. It’s a good film for a parent who is sick of the Little League power regime or a kid of any age who just enjoys the game. It’s cute and funny, a bit of junk food fun for the mind.