Bad News Bears (2005) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 113 min.
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Sammi Kane Kraft, Jeffrey Davies, Timmy Deters, Kenneth "K.C." Harris, Brandon Craggs, Troy Gentile, Tyler Patrick Jones, Jeffrey Tedmori, Aman Johal, Emmanuel Estrada, Carlos Estrada, Ridge Canipe, Carter Jenkins
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Bill Lancaster, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
The 1976 classic sports film, The Bad News Bears, has been given an upgrade in 2005 -- they removed the word "The" from the title! Outside of this there is little fundamental difference between this film and its predecessor, save for that between Billy Bob Thornton's obnoxious drunk and Walter Matthau's apathetic one. Pretty much every plot twist and development that occurs in the original film is here in the new one, and only a few changes (there is now a child in a wheelchair) to the kids makeup. So, how do I review a film like this? If I deemed the original film to be "good", shouldn't I also do the same thing for this remake since it is almost exactly the same?
The answer is yes and no, and this determination resides solely in the mind of each particular viewer. If you're seen the original recently, watching this new version is going to seem rather boring. For purposes of writing the review for the 2005 version, I watched and reviewed the original just a week before. Consequently, I found myself growing restless from boredom, as scene after scene took place, and only casting changes and some dialogue have changed. I realize that some viewers haven't seen the original, and those that have may not have done so for many years, so your mileage will certainly vary in this regard.
Billy Bob Thornton (Friday Night Lights, Bad Santa) plays aging alcoholic Morris Buttermaker, a one time major league player (just for 2/3 of an inning) turned rat killer, with not much to show for his life except some empty bottles of booze. Morris get the chance to make some extra cash by coaching a little league baseball team although he isn't expected to win, since most of these boys are the ones that didn't make the teams. The money is all Morris cares about anyway, so he's content to let them lose, but once he sees them take their first shellacking, he has a change of heart. Recruiting an ace girl pitcher (Kraft) and the talented neighborhood punk (Davies), he gets the tools he needs for some success, but do the kids want to play for fun or just to win?
I lifted the plotline you see above directly from the one I wrote in my review for the 1976 version, with only a few minor adjustments in the cast and small details. I feel a bit like I'm cheating, but so should the makers of this movie, as it appears that all they bothered to do is to take Bill Lancaster's original screenplay and adjust the dialogue to match the sensibilities of today's audiences. Basically, the team of Ficarra and Requa, the duo that wrote the filthy dialogue for Thornton's Bad Santa, put as much as they can into this film without going over the PG-13 rating. Call this Bad Santa Lite, meant for people too young to see the R rated (or raunchier unrated) version.
Lazy and completely superfluous, Bad News Bears isn't really a bad film, but it would be a very bad trend in Hollywood moviemaking if one were to keep remaking old films into new ones without doing very much differently. Considering the fact that The Bad News Bears has been "remade" a hundred times by many imitators, albeit in a watered-down fashion, and the conclusion ends up being that Hollywood may have truly run out of ideas for movies.
©2005 Vince Leo