Bad News Bears
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Richard Linklater
scr Bill Lancaster, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
with Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Sammi Kane Kraft, Jeffrey Davies, Ridge Canipe, Brandon Craggs, Timmy Deters, Carlos Estrada, Emmanuel Estrada, Troy Gentile, Kenneth Harris, Aman Johal, Tyler Patrick Jones, Jeffrey Tedmori, Carter Jenkins
release US 22.Jul.05, UK 12.Aug.05
05/US Paramount 1h53

Bad news for the Bears: Kraft, Thornton and Deters

thornton kinnear harden

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Bad News Bears Yes, it's another pointless remake. And this time the filmmakers actually used Lancaster's original 1976 script, merely hiring the Bad Santa writers to adapt it for Thornton and update it to include a few jabs at today's political correctness. The result is entertaining ... and unnecessary.

Morris Buttermaker (Thornton) is a has-been baseball player hired by an over-keen mom (Harden) to coach the Bears, a little league team for misfit players. Of course, Morris couldn't care less, and hasn't a clue how to act around children. But he drafts in a couple of kids who know how to play--an ex's daughter (Kraft) and a local bad boy (Davies)--and somehow turns the team into winners. So as the championship game approaches, the star coach (Kinnear) begins to get really angry.

The plot is extremely obvious, mainly because the original movie spawned an endless stream of similar films (including the recent Kicking & Screaming). And Thornton is obvious casting, with his gently realistic vulgarity. Fortunately, he's extremely watchable (although he's not nearly as funny as Walter Matthau was), chewing on the dialog and keeping things extremely close to the bone, which is refreshing in these days of annoyingly bland filmmaking. The kids here swear and scheme like real kids, not movie cuties;and as he did in School of Rock, Linklater gets terrific performances from his young cast. He also maintains a gently loping tone that continually surprises us with sharp humour.

The only real problem is that the writers haven't done anything remotely new with the material. Why remake a movie if you're not going to create something new, or at least a clever riff on the original? Because after 30 years or imitation, this story is just a cliche about scrappy underdogs and arrogant high-achievers. To update it requires originality and inventiveness beyond witty dialog and rowdy game-time antics. And the overstated moral message is really annoying, as everyone learns Important Life Lessons on the field and off.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 3.Aug.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall