Bad News Bears is not necessarily a fine film, but it is a lot better than the host of other remakes Hollywood has thrown at us as of late. Billy Bob Thorton stars in the film, and I quote, “as a drunk who makes a living killing rats to live in a trailers.” The film seems to take his character from Bad Santa and the football coach in Friday Night Lights and seems to merge the two. However, neither of his tactics in either film are used in the film. This results in the audience liking his characte… more than he probably likes himself.
The original 1976 film starred the late Walter Matthau. Thorton’s performance in the film seems to be holding a candle to Matthau’s. Thorton just seems to find more of a sad tone in his character of Morris Buttermaker than Matthau did. His team is called the Bears, which is only around due to a lawsuit that feels the Little League discriminates. The attorney Liz Whitewood (Marcia Gay Harden) demands that the league except all players. This results in the typical sport film’s cliché. His team gets ALL of the terrible players including a black kid, two Spanish speakers, an Indian, a kid who seems to be too little to even hold the bat, and one kid who is in a motorized wheelchair. As you can possible assume from this cliché, is that NONE of these players can play the game.
Thorton simply has this job for the money and so he can keep his ‘non-alcoholic’ beer filled with bourbon. When the attorney says she smells alcohol on him, he uses the standard ‘don’t drink and drive’ line with the children. Lines and scenes like this can hint you toward the direction of the story. The story is extremely predictable as it is in all sport related films involving a team of underdogs. The team is horrendous, but will eventually get better so they can beat the unbeatable team. Like some other films, the team gets better when Buttermaker recruits his daughter to play. Naturally, she is a gifted pitcher giving the team just the edge they need to win.
The reason I found this film to be good was because it works. Yes, the film is extremely predictable, but the film is more of darker PG-13 film than most would expect with the occasional f-word in the dialogue (this is a note to parents). One of the funnier notes from the film involves the idea that America is more about cheating and stealing to win instead of fair play, which can be seen via the recent criminal trials of millionaire executives.
Now this would not be a sport film if Buttermaker did not have a nemesis. The nemesis is a man named Coach Bullock (Greg Kinnear)whose team named the Yankees, like the real Yankees, almost always win. Bullock is extremely tough on his child and takes a more realistic approach to the game than Buttermaker. (‘Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing’ vs. ‘Baseball. Once you love it, it doesn’t always love you back. It’s like dating a German chick’).
Thorton’s character may get some comparisons to his character in Bad Santa but his character in this film lacks the real evil genius that Willie had. He tries to be as vulgar as Willie was, but Thorton knew he had a PG-13 rating to work around (‘You guys are acting like Helen Keller at a piñata party’). I enjoyed this film highly because it undermines the myths we have about sports in America. The film writes the obituary of the concept of good sportsmanship in sports.
Bad News Bears is presented in its original 1:78:1 aspect ratio. The film looks just fine for a remake. The overall feel of the color tones is quite nice. The skin tones are vibrant and there is little to no grain present on the screen. One word of advice though, don’t go into this film expecting a magnificent transfer that will blow your eyes out of their sockets. The film’s transfer is as good as I expected it to be.
The main Audio track we are given is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Mix. The voices sound extremely clear and the sound effects of the baseballs being hit, people running and yelling sound excellent. I noticed a high variety of range because of this. The various musical songs come off on a very beautiful note sounding crisp and clear. Just like the picture, the audio is just as good.
We are given a HOST of special features here. But do they add up to much? Read on to find out.
- At Bat with the Bears: This feature mostly features discussions with the films’ stars and the director Richard Linklater. Everyone talks about the original topic of ‘remixing’ this old classic and how it was adapted to make sense for a modern audience.
- Writing the Bad News Bears: Here writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who also wrote the hilarious Bad Santa, talk about their updating of the original story. Their overall goal was to make more of a ‘remix’ instead of a ‘remake’ mainly because of their goal of staying in tone with the original story.
- Scouting for the Big Leagues: This feature is a casting feature that discusses how everyone came to agreement on who would play who. We mostly get different tapes from various kids. Casting director Joseph Middleton gives us a huge amount of information by bringing his knowledge to the table. Definitely one of the better features here.
- Feature-Length Commentary with Writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and Director Richard Linklater: An extremely informative commentary track here. If you wanted to know ANYTHING about this film, definitely give this a listen to. They mostly release how the movie came to be adapted discussing some of the major issues they undertook to shoot the film. Highly interesting and rarely boring.
- Spring Training: Director Richard Linklater speaks about the job he had to get all of the children in baseball shape for the film. He also touches on how he had to train all of the children to act in front of a camera.
- Deleted Scenes: Here we get six different deleted scenes with optional commentary from the Writers and Director. The scenes don’t add that much to the film, but the commentary tracks add a lot of reasoning as to why they were deleted out of the film.
- Outtakes: Here we get a bunch of outtakes. The funniest thing here was the idea of having an optional commentary track. I did’t know you needed a commentary track to know when to laugh or to know what was funny.
- Video Baseball Cards: Here we get a few short moments about the various actors who starred in the film. The standard ‘they were in this, they went here.’
- Trailers: Lastest we get a few trailers for the films Elizabethtown, Barnyard, The Honeymooners, and the TV show Beavis and Butthead
Please do not go into Bad News Bears expecting an American classic. The film is not as good as the original film, but it a lot better than most of the trite garbage Hollywood throws at us nowadays. Thorton, just like his last two films, is as funny as ever. The DVD boasts above-average picture and audio with a lot of very informative features that are ALMOST more entertaining than the film itself! Because of this, I can easily recommend this film for a rental just to see the excellent features.
Special Features List
- Commentary by: director and co-screenplay writers
- Deleted scenes
- Theatrical trailer
- Video baseball cards