Few directors are capable of swapping creative hats back
and forth without losing a step or two in the process. It’s
a practice that every director must embrace to some extent
in order to sustain their more artistic yet less commercially
viable projects, but it’s the transitioning back and
forth that usually degrades the artists’ skills.
Linklater seems to have found the hidden secret to this
practice because he seems to get better with each switch
of the hat. He followed the art-house animated venture Waking
Life with the uber commercial laugh-fest School
of Rock to great success, and then followed that
up with a return to his more subdued euro-meanderings with
the brilliant Before Sunset. Now it’s time
for the pendulum to swing back in favor of the cash boon,
and hopefully his latest endeavor will strike a cord with
filmgoers this weekend.
News Bears deserves an audience, but could risk polarizing
Moms and Dads expecting a completely family friendly film
upon entering the cinemas with their tots. The thing they
may be forgetting is the original Bears pushed
the limits of decency in a family geared film of the time,
and Linklater has pushed the envelope further with his remake.
original film pitted beer swigging Walter Matthau against
a foulmouthed Tatum O’Neal. This time around, Morris
Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton) has his work cut out for
him in the Bears, a team of misfits that were all but pushed
out of the local little league due to their lack of prowess
on the diamond.
only thing keeping the team in the program is an injunction
filed by team Mom, Liz Whitewood (Marcia Gay Harden). She
hires Buttermaker, a washed out ex-ballplayer with two-thirds
of an inning of play in the Majors to his name, to coach
the team into contention. The only problem is that the only
thing Buttermaker is intent on coaching is a six pack of
brew into his belly.
crew Buttermaker is sentenced to coach has little talent
and even less drive. In a hilarious roll call sequence,
Buttermaker learns that his team is a slice of ethnic diversity.
With kids ranging from Spanish speakers to paraplegics on
the team, Buttermaker has his work cut out for him. Seeing
any of the TV spots will clue you into the early laughs,
but some of the more racy ones are pulled from dialogue
exchanges, and they keep you chuckling throughout the entire
his time spent coaching the Bears with his job as a rodent
exterminator Buttermaker stoops to new levels of low by
making the kids fumigate crawlspaces, spray insecticides,
and serve him cocktails in the process. The team quickly
grows tired of his lackadaisical approach to coaching the
team and issues an ultimatum.
suffering a first inning pummeling that results in a double
digit score without recording an out, Buttermaker calls
the game to put the Bears out of their misery. In the process
he creates a rivalry with Yankee coach, Ray Bullock (Greg
Kinnear), and stokes the ire of the Bears, prompting their
vote to disband the team indefinitely.
sparks something in Buttermaker, as he identifies with the
team's desire to win despite the deficiencies on the field,
so he rededicates himself to coaching the team and works
on making some mid-season acquisitions that could help both
their offense and defense.
first of his two late additions is his own daughter, Amanda
Whurlitzer (Sammi Kraft). Her arm is impeccable, and her
desire to bond with her bastard father is subdued beneath
a cold calm exterior, a defense mechanism if there ever
was one. With Amanda on board, the team has solved its pitching
woes, as Amanda throws heat like no other in the league,
and she exercises the on the mound wherewithal to rival
even the most cunning Major League ace.
also brings another key player into the fold, by helping
Buttermaker recruit the local punk loner, Kelly Leak (Jeff
Davies). Leak has a history with Bullock, who obviously
resents him for quitting the Yankees for unknown yet assumable
of the defining moments that truly set the original, The
Bad News Bears, apart from your typically uplifting
coming of age sports story takes place in the third act,
during the championship game pitting the Bears against their
overly competitive rivals The Yankees. It’s a gem
of a scene, in which the opposing team’s coach Roy
Turner (Vic Morrow) proceeds to berate his son and star
pitcher while on the mound.
a subdued moment of realization, and one that makes the
film work. Thornton, as Buttermaker, handles the scene naturally
and with picture perfect precision. His handling of this
sequence is only bettered by his build up in arrogance,
selfishness, and downright crude behavior towards the team.
It’s a turnaround that not only brings the remake
to a satisfying close, but pays its respects to the original
in the process.
overly crowded weekend, Bad News Bears could easily
get lost in the shuffle, but it deserves a view nonetheless.