Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
THE pitch may be comprised of countless other movies but there
is plenty of fun to be had in watching Bad News Bears - not least
because it features another fantastically grizzled performance
from Billy Bob Thornton.
The film is a remake of Walter Matthau's 1976 original and is
also hopelessly similar to Will Ferrell's recent Kicking and Screaming.
But it is written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the team behind
Bad Santa) and directed by Richard Linklater, who knows how to
deliver a crowd-pleaser or two (remember School of Rock?).
Thornton plays Morris Buttermaker, a down-at-heel rodent killer
with a passion for booze and loose women, who agrees to coach
a young baseball team of no-hopers who possess as much bad attitude
as the manager himself.
They're the unlikeliest athletes ever - and include a wheelchair-bound
player among their line-up - but far from being put off by the
challenge, Buttermaker wins them sponsorship from a local strip
club and issues coaching tips in between sips from his beer/whisky.
Needless to say, the team improves
dramatically and eventually poses a threat to the superiority
of Greg Kinnear's defending league champions, placing them on
course for the inevitable showdown.
Yet as second-hand as all this sounds, Bad News Bears works because
of the way it messes with the conventions of the genre.
Thornton is unapologetically crass at times, even going so far
as to bed the team's sponsor (Marcia Gay Harden) and passing out
drunk on the training field.
The verbal exchanges between the manager and his young charges
also push the boundaries of the 12A certificate, making it all
the more refreshingly un-PC.
It's as though Bad Santa himself was coaching the Bears, given
the similarities between Thornton's portrayal of both characters.
The kids, too, are a lively bunch who rise above some of the
more obvious stereotypes to emerge as quite endearing, while Linklater's
decision to use baseball players rather than actors merely adds
to the film's authenticity - with Jeffrey Davies excellent as
the hitter and Sammi Kane Kraft throwing like a convincing pitcher.
With so much in its favour, therefore, Bad News Bears strikes
a near-perfect blend of comedy and excitement that makes a refreshing
change from some of the more hopelessly contrived sports comedies
of the moment.
Related stories: Billy
Bob Thornton interview
Richard Linklater interview
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