Movie Name: The Bad News Bears
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date(s): April 7, 1976
MPAA Rating: PG
Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is a washed-up baseball player who now spends his days drinking and cleaning pools. Recruited to manage an equal-opportunity baseball team, Buttermaker finds himself in charge of the Bears…a team made up of rejects from other teams. The Bears have an uphill battle ahead of them and if they want to win the championship, they’re going to need a couple of secret weapons…which could be rebel Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) and pitching phenom Amanda Whurlizer (Tatum O’Neal). Can the Bears beat the odds and come out on top?
Directed by Michael Ritchie, The Bad News Bears became a breakout hit. The film started a franchise, a remake, and spun off a TV series. It did receive criticism for the vulgarity of the script in a PG rated film.
It is this vulgarity which helps make The Bad News Bears work. As a kid, seeing The Bad News Bears was a treat. You felt like you were seeing something kind of adult, but you also were seeing something with real kids. If you watch The Bad News Bears today, you will find you are kind of shocked by the level, but it also made me a little sad that we are so sensitive that a movie like it couldn’t be a kids’ movie.
The Bad News Bears script is harsh. You got kids using ethnic slurs, drinking beer, and talking about eleven-year-olds being on the pill…it is the type of dialogue you’d expect more in Fight Club than a kids movie. The script however is smart. The typical “they all come together and win” sports movie is undermined by a story which actually has the heroes losing…it makes so much sense with the story and as a viewer, you’re ok with it.
The cast is great. Matthau plays the perfect slob, but he also is somewhat touching in his relationship with the kids and especially Tatum O’Neal. I loved O’Neal as a child actress and it is sad that she crashed and burned…hard (this film actually caused a rift between Tatum and her father Ryan who quit talking to her after a bet that his movie Barry Lyndon would make more). Jackie Earle Haley is a good rebel which is funny since he grew into shrimp-y non-intimidating guy. The rest of the kids are also solid with no weak links…which is rare for an almost all kid cast.
The movie has a bit of timelessness to its look. Baseball fields and kids look the same and in that sense the film has aged well. When the characters go away from the field there is that classic ’70s feel to the movie, but if you are going to allow your children to watch it, they won’t be “too old looking” for them.
The Bad News Bears really holds up but also brings back classic memories of childhood. I loved the movie then and maybe even appreciate it more now simply because of what it was. The Bad News Bears was followed by The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training in 1977.
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