Pour Those Kids A Cold One
D. Mikels | Skunk Holler | 01/14/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Talk about waxing nostalgia. I hadn't seen THE BAD NEWS BEARS since it made its successful run in theaters way back in the mid-70s; then I recently came across this film on TCM (thank goodness for Turner) and all of the memories and charm of the Bears came rushing back into my noggin. Before long I was chuckling and giggling while watching the ambivalent antics of ex-minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker (one of Walter Matthau's best roles, in my humble opine) as he sits in the dugout with his ice chest full of suds and watches his Little League team of misfits completely warp America's favorite past-time. Matthau's Buttermaker couldn't care less his Bears are stinking up the diamond (they get run-ruled in the 1st inning of their first game); all he wants is his paycheck for coaching the team so he can drink away his meaningless life. But Buttermaker does possess one redeeming quality--a conscience--and when it finally dawns on him that his players are being endlessly humiliated he decides to give them a competitive chance by recruiting Amanda (Tatum O'Neal), the 12-year-old daughter of his ex-girlfriend. Amanda's got a sensational fastball and an eye-popping 12-6 curveball, and with the addition of Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley)--the area's chain-smoking, Harley-riding, juvenile delinquent--the Bad News Bears indeed become. . .the Bad News Bears.
Did I mention this film is charming? The mayhem of the Bears in a game, Buttermaker's drunken indifference, sets the comical stage for the story to develop; once the Bears start moving up in the standings there's a transformation. Suddenly Buttermaker becomes what so many overbearing Little League adults become when their teams are winning--he becomes a jerk. Coach Turner (Vic Morrow), his antagonist leading the hated Yankees, is the epitome of the win-at-all-costs coach, and Buttermaker is swiftly heading in that direction. The championship game becomes the culmination of these two men's competitive egos. . .until Coach Turner gets a resounding comeuppance from his own son, and Buttermaker realizes that baseball, in the grand scheme of all things, is only a game. Accordingly the charm of THE BAD NEWS BEARS manifests itself with crystal clarity.
For those who have not seen this original be forewarned: it's definitely jarring. My, how times have changed in well over thirty years! Many of the children swear like sailors, Haley's character smokes like a chimney, and after the final game Buttermaker gives all his charges a cold one, which they begin downing. Not exactly PTA-approved, but for those of us who survived the Seventies let's just say those were considerably more tolerant times. Regardless, THE BAD NEWS BEARS sends a timeless message: Little League competition is innocent--provided you can keep the adults from mucking it up.
--D. Mikels, Author, The Reckoning"
John Lengieza | Chicopee MA | 12/21/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Way better than the stupid remake . This is a great gift the classic movie in your life."