'Bad News Bears' Review: For the Love of the Pain
Some films can tell a lot about themselves simply through their title. For instance, The Little Mermaid is about a young mermaid, Aliens is about extra-terrestrials, Jurassic Park is about a theme park filled with dinosaurs and Bad News Bears is just bad news.
This 2005 remake follows washed-up major league pitcher Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton) as he attempts to coach a little league team of misfits and troublemakers. Sure he’s an alcoholic and a hack of an exterminator who practically lives out of his car, but can he overcome his own moral failings and the weakness of the team to win the championship?
Better question: does this set-up sound at all interesting you?
In all fairness, the actual plot of the movie isn’t so bad on paper. It’s the execution phase where Bad News Bears falls apart. I can’t speak to the quality of the original, but this remake is a classroom example of inconsistent pacing and completely tone-deaf writing. At the outset of the film, we see Buttermaker lazily saunter out of a house he’s supposed to have been driving mice out of, only to rush to a meeting with some mystery woman who pressures him to coach a boys’ baseball team. Is she the boy’s mother? Is Buttermaker on probation, or is he just volunteering out of the kindness of his heart? Why did this woman choose him, of all people to lead this team? These simple questions can all be ignored, either to be haphazardly addressed later, or possibly not at all! Suddenly we’re introducing villains and plot points and characterization (if it can be called such an act) in a shotgun-blast of information blitz. Bears seems to have no sense of the amount of time ahead of it – and the movie clocks in at just under two hours!
Pile on top of this some of the most inconsistent and bizarre writing I’ve ever seen in a realistic feature film. The movie is pitched like a sort of Sandlot-esque kids movie, but we’re expected to give a little chuckle when Buttermaker gets the team sponsored by a local strip club. He drinks and drives, sleeps around, and is just generally a terrible person, even around the children he coaches! But I guess we’re not supposed to be TOO caught off-guard, since most of the kids are swearing and just generally being crass little pricks, anyhow. That makes everything add up, right?
Spoiler alert: no. No it doesn’t. It just gets old.
I honestly only laughed maybe twice at the whole movie, either from an actually decent comeback from one of the non-swearing kids and another time from Buttermaker’s daughter, Amanda (played by the late Sammi Kane Kraft, and who is easily the unsung hero of this otherwise wretched experience). Seeing kids call each other “douchebag” or “asshole” isn’t funny, and neither is teaching the nerdy Indian boy how to flip people off. They’re twelve, at best, for God’s sake: that’s not charming, it’s wavering on disturbing! Not to mention one choice scene where Buttermaker attempts to rally the kids, but ends up shouting, “This isn’t a democracy! It’s a dictatorship! And I’m Hitler!” to a que of rousing and inspiring music. Seriously, who even does that? Had the people who worked on this never heard of the concepts of subtext and juxtaposition?
Perhaps the strangest part of it all is the man in charge of this disaster, Richard Linklater. That’s right; the guy who won Oscars for Boyhood directed this festering mess of celluloid pus. Why he would sign up for this, let alone how he lives it down to this day, is completely beyond me.
Let me be perfectly clear here: Bad News Bears is not a good film. It’s not a funny film. It’s not redeeming, it’s not a guilty pleasure, it doesn’t even have the decency to be so-bad-it’s-good. It’s just a complete waste of time, money, and space, and a tragedy that it stands as the beginning and end of so many young careers, the sole claim to fame of these hapless child actors. Save yourself the time and the brain cells, and move on to virtually anything else.
Final Verdict: Skip It