Bad News Bears

Cast:
Billy Bob Thornton as Morris Buttermaker
Greg Kinnear as Roy Bullock
Marcia Gay Harden as Liz Whitewood
Sammi Kraft as Amanda Whurlitzer
Ridge Canipe as Toby Whitewood
Brandon Craggs as Mike Engelberg
Jeff Davies as Kelly Leak
Timmy Deters as Tanner Boyle
Carlos Estrada as Miguel Agilar
Emmanuel Estrada as Jose Agilar
Troy Gentile as Matthew Hooper
K.C. Harris as Ahmad Abdul Rahim
Aman Johal as Prem Lahiri
Tyler Patrick Jones as Timothy Lupus
Jeffrey Tedmori as Garo Daragebrigadian

Analysis:
It’s not particularly original or inventive – even for a remake – but it’s funny enough that most of the time you won’t notice or care.

Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton) is a washed up has been of a professional baseball player who has been hired to coach the newest little team made up of the worst kids in the league. What starts as simple an exercise in making extra money eventually transforms into a desire to defeat the annoying coach of the best team in the league (Greg Kinnear) as Buttermaker’s pride in himself and his team is reawakened.

Bad News Bears is Richard Linklater’s (Before Sunset, Waking Life) remake of the 70s sports ‘classic’ with Thornton stepping into the Walter Matthau roll. The hook of the original was having a film where the kids were quite adult in their nastiness, doing and saying things kids would never do and say on screen before that time. Thirty years later, it’s not quite as shockingly funny as it was at the time, and Bad News Bears wisely seeks other areas of humor besides that. It also tends to fall into the remake trap of things happening in the film not because it seems like they should happen, but because they happened that way in the original, so they must happen that way again, even if it doesn’t make as much sense in the new narrative.

Thornton is the real reason to watch the film. He plays most of his scenes with an understated unrepentant scumbaggishsness that makes him easy to simultaneously hate and like. It’s a tricky balance to pull off, but he manages it well.

Everyone else tends to be as broad as possible, which doesn’t always work opposite Thornton’s low-key humor, though Kinnear is nicely smarmy. The kids on the team are clichés for the most part (the smart kid, the angry kid, the fat kid, etc.) and the humor from them is mostly drawn from them doing and saying very crude things, which wears itself out quickly.

Bad News Bears, like the original, tries to be an anti-sports movie, and the idea works more often than it doesn’t, though there of been enough films of the same type made since the original, so that it still often falls into cliché. But it’s funny, and that counts for a lot.

Bad News Bears is rated PG-13.

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