Bad News Bears


Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by:Bill Lancaster, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Sammi Kane Kraft, Ridge Canipe
Released: December 8, 2005
Grade: C

The Bears are an inept group of 6th graders who have no idea how to play baseball.  To improve their chances, the mother of a player has hired former Major League player Morris Buttermaker (Thornton) to be their new coach.  He’ll try to take them from zeroes to heroes.

Buttermaker isn’t exactly a roll model.  He’s an alcoholic womaniser who has only taken the job for the money.  When he sees his team thrashed in the season’s opening game, Buttermaker “sees the light” and starts to focus.  With a few new recruits, the team starts winning matches and looks set for a spot in the championship final.

I don’t know who this film is marketed at.  Billy Bob Thornton’s cursing character is similar to what we saw from him in Bad Santa.  Television advertisements have been making reference to it with quotes such as “if you thought he was bad in Bad Santa…”  This is simply a marketing gimmick – Bad News Bears is much tamer and has almost no profanity.  A few sexual references have pushed it up to an M-rating but it’s not even close to being in the same ballpark as Bad Santa (which deserved earned an MA-rating).

This leaves the film in limbo.  There isn’t enough comedy or cussing to lure a mature adult audience.  Without this edge, what is there to entertain adults?  Am I really going to go with my friends to see some nonsensical Cinderella story about a group of rotten kids (who can’t act) playing baseball?  Thornton needed to be much funnier and I keep thinking back to how great Tom Hanks was in a similar role in 1992’s A League Of Their Own (as coach Jimmy Dugan).

Parents with kids might also be advised to stay away.  As disappointing as the jokes are, there are “medium sexual references and coarse language” according the Office of Film & Literature Classification.  When you consider some of the more appropriate family films which will be out this summer, and the reputation of Billy Bob Thornton following Bad Santa, are parents actually going to take their kids to see this?

My focus on the lack of marketing target shouldn’t take away from the fact that Bad News Bears is terrible.  The team’s quick rise through the ranks is too hard to believe and the cop-out finale left me confused and irritated.  The film is a remake of a 1976 film starring Walter Mathau (which I haven’t seen).  It spawned two sequels and a short-lived television series (which ran for just eight episodes in 1979).  That is where this concept should have ended.