The Bad News Bears Movie came out in 1976, the year of American’s Bi-centennial. It was a different time here in the United States, American was in a different place, it was a time of celebration. It was a time of happiness in the country. And a small unknown comedy was about to hit movie theaters. A movie about a down and out coach and a band of misfits little league players who find that when they come together, they are winners even if they lose the big game.
A feel good movie for a country that was feeling very good about itself. And then fast forward almost 30 years to a completely different America and remake the same film. Will the charm and innocence of the original movie come through?
So much has change in the country can this film still work? In 2005, it is the time of cell phones, computers, cable and satellite TV. The cold war is over and new enemies have found their way to America. 2005 is only a few short years after 9/11, and a changed world.
Here is a look again at the 1976 film. The Bad News Bears stars Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal. In the movie, Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), an alcoholic and former minor-league baseball player, becomes the coach of a cellar-dwelling Little League team, the Bears. He works as a pool cleaner, while drinking endlessly on the side. He coaches the Bears, a children’s baseball team with poor playing skills.
Buttermaker recruits Amanda Whurlizer (Tatum O’Neal), a skilled pitcher who is the 11-year-old daughter of one of Buttermaker’s ex-girlfriends. And a local cigarette-smoking troublemaker, Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley). With Leak and Whurlizer, the Bears start winning games. Eventually, the Bears make it to the championship game opposite the Yankees, the Bears lose the game 7 to 6. In losing the team learns valuable lessons about life, they have the satisfaction of trying, knowing that winning is not so important.
In the film, the Bears were sponsored by an actual company, “Chico’s Bail Bonds.”The film was notable in its time for the amount of vulgarity including profanity and ethnic slurs placed into the mouths of the various child actors.
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And in 2005 the remake Bad News Bears; Grizzled former professional baseball player Morris Buttermaker is bribed by a straitlaced lawyer to coach the Bears. Buttermaker (Thornton), an alcoholic pest removal worker and former professional baseball player (for a very short time), coaches and train a failing baseball team of 12-year-olds which is about to be thrown out of the league.
With a woefully inept youth baseball team, Buttermaker needs to find a way to drive this gang of 12 misfits to a championship against their hated rivals: the Yankees and their overbearing coach. As Buttermaker tries to groom his young charges into a winning team, he also gives them a glimpse of his hard-living lifestyle while they gear up to take on perennial rivals the Yankees. The 2005 version of The Bad News Bears was written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who previously scripted another Billy Bob Thornton vehicle, Bad Santa. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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Here is what the critics had to say at the release of the remake of Bad News Bears.
Film critic Mike Clark wasn’t impressed with the “tailor-made” remake featuring an indistinct cast of kids compared to the original. Although Billy Bob Thornton is described as an “obvious pick to take over the beer-swilling coach role from Walter Matthau,” the performance of ace pitcher ‘Amanda’ fell short in the acting category. Despite Sammi Kane Kraft’s athletic performance on the mound, her acting wasn’t nearly as convincing as Tatum O’Neal. Overall, the weight of decisions by execs are clear in tweaking the ending and moviegoers will quickly see the remake version of “Bad News Bears” on DVD alongside the original.
Renowned film critic and columnist Robert Ebert describes this summer’s film as a “faithful remake of the 1976 film” and a “dark but traditional PG-13 version of a kid’s sports movie.” Additionally, Ebert chimes in how the film portrays a new morality of “winning” in America — embracing success by lying and cheating over sportsmanship and fair play. And the team has a diverse group of kids including a player almost too little to hold a bat and another in a motorized wheelchair.
In comparing Walter Matthau’s ‘Buttermaker’ to Thornton’s performance, Ebert praises Thornton’s self-loathing and the actor’s convincing role without recycling from his former characters as an ugly drunk in “Bad Santa” and football coach in “Friday Night Lights.”
The New York Times
Movie critic Manohla Dargis explains that the main complaints of critics regarding the slew of Hollywood remakes “are the same things that are bad in nonremakes: lousy filmmaking.” In his review, Dargis’ comparison of the new film against the original entails much reminiscing about the mid-70′s Nixon-era and avante garde films of the time such as “Animal House”
Overall, his trip down memory lane offers positive feedback to Richard Linklater’s new version, co-written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the same team that wrote “Bad Santa.” According to Dargis, although the remake “won’t rock your movie world,” Linklater keeps the flow of the theme — goofy kids portrayed as freaks who triumph over mainstream ideals in the end.
Dargis also offers accolades to Thornton’s performance, as he describes the actor’s version of ‘Buttermaker’ as a sexy tomcat compared to the disgruntled Matthua — “If Mr. Thornton’s coach has a more active sex life than Mr. Matthau’s, it is partly because the two men register rather differently on screen.”
Los Angeles Times
Staff writer Carina Chocano describes this summer’s remake as “a straightforward, surprisingly faithful and definitely loving adaptation” of the original film. She also refers to Linklater’s homage to the original in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview.
Chocano emphasizes the theme of growing pains of childhood in both films — “the most subversive thing about “Bad News Bears” is the idea that childhood is not always the greatest state to find oneself in. Sometimes it feels like a humiliating insult, alleviated only by the added injury of having to grow up.”
And among critics comparing the unknown Sammi Kane Kraft opposed to Tatum O’Neal’s character, Chocano describes Kraft’s athleticism and slumpy appeal “makes for a better foil” to Thornton’s character than O’Neals chirpiness. And the irony exists where Thornton’s sleazy guy role “might have something to teach the youth of America.” Finally, she notes that the funniest moment in the film — the team making a visit to Hooters and singing along to Eric Clapton’s rendition of “Cocaine” — may be to the disliking of conservative parents.
The Washington Post
Style and movie critic Stephen Hunter sums up Thornton’s role best as “a sexualized ugliness” where he takes ‘Buttermaker’ further than Matthau’s portrayal as mere worthlessness to “sociopathic.” Hunter prefers the bad to the good ‘Buttermaker’ and notes writers Ficarra and Requa added a few tasteless dead animal jokes in the remake.
For fans of the original film and similar reels of broken dreams, both “Bad News Bears” are “as good as the other” where the remake is a tracing of the original script. Linklater keeps the magic in each beat of the personality of the cast and sequences of the shoots. The “old stuff” that was funny when “it was so refreshing back in ’76 to see kids curse and rant” is still funny.
Hunter’s point? “The movie is fun, though not great, and Billy Bob rules.
So in the end it is up to the viewers to make their own minds. Both have strong points and weak points. From the team jersey side the original Bad News Bears Game Jerseys vs. the remake Bad News Bears Jerseys it is no contest. The original out sells the remake two to one. Which is funny since most people like the updated style of the remake jersey more.
In the end maybe the jersey buyers just want to go back to their youth.
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