Successful movies and sporting teams have much in common. Their success depends not so much on one or two star players, but on all the team members working at their peak towards their common goal, be it a hit film or a championship trophy. While remaking the 1976 comedy The Bad News Bears with Billy Bob Thorton playing a variation of his Bad Santa (2004) character as the alcohol-soaked coach and directed by Richard Linklater – coming off of another kids-ensemble picture, School Of Rock (2004) – may seem like a great idea, unfortunately, not many of the other elements of the picture work. The result is not the expected homerun, but a disappointing strike out.
The main problem with the film is that it is too reverent of its source material. Many of the kids look like carbon copies of the original film cast. Although some small references are brought up to date – overweight Bear Engelberg (Brandon Craggs) states he’s on the Atkins Diet – the filmmakers seem to make no attempt to make the movie their own. The script doesn’t deviate much from the original’s plot about a crusty, perpetually drunk former baseball player who takes charge of a Little league team of foul-mouthed miscreants. When it does, the screenplay expands the adults roles more, giving more screen time to Thornton’s Buttermaker, Marcia Gay Harden as one the Bears’ mother and Greg Kinnear as the driven coach of the Bears’ rival team. Unfortunately, this means less screen time for the kids on the team. With the emphasis shifted off of the team members, it is harder to care whether they win the game in the film’s big finale.
On the plus side, Ed Shearmur’s score nicely drops hints of Bizet’s “March of the Toreadors”, the classical piece used so well in the original film, preparing us for when the piece makes its full entrance here. Unfortunately, someone decided that it was absolutely necessary to include the John Fogerty song “Centerfield.” As it seems that this song has shown up in virtually every baseball film since its 1985 release, it only adds to the impression that this remake of The Bad News Bears has nothing new to offer., The Bad News Bears