BAD NEWS BEARS
*1/2 (out of 5)
July 22, 2005
Billy Bob Thornton as MORRIS BUTTERMAKER
Greg Kinnear as ROY BULLOCK
Marcia Gay Harden as LIZ WHITEWOOD
Sammi Kraft as AMANDA WHURLITZER
Ridge Canipe as TOBY WHITEWOOD
Brandon Craggs as MIKE ENGELBERG
Jeff Davies as KELLY LEAK
Directed by: Richard Linklater
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
This movie depressed me.
It didn’t just make me feel bad. It put me in a deep blue funk. And I don’t know why exactly, but it was a powerful reaction. You know the kind of depression in which you can’t find the energy to get off the couch to turn the television on, make a sandwich or even bathe? It is this level of darkness I felt while watching “Bad News Bears.”
It’s not even that I was a huge fan of the original. Oh, I liked it, but I haven’t seen it for decades. Still, the entire ambiance of this movie made me feel mopey.
A lot of the blame goes to Billy Bob Thornton. Yes, he can play a sardonically funny cantankerous drunk. But sometimes it’s overkill. There was no inspiration behind the character. It just seemed that he was collecting a paycheck. Maybe there was an alimony payment due to Angelina Jolie… who knows?
Blame also falls on the writers. Not Bill Lancaster, whose clever original script was bastardized into what ended up on screen. Instead, I blame Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who also gave us “Bad Santa.” This just seemed to be a studio-forced decision to bring in the writing team from “Bad Santa” to give us another Billy-Bob-Is-a-Drunk movie.
This story follows a has-been baseball pitcher who is bribed by a local lawyer to coach a little league team. The kids on the team are the worst around, but it’s up to their coach to find inspiration in them and himself to bring them to the championship.
The movie seemed so focused on Thornton’s character’s flaws that they forget that this was supposed to be a family movie. “Bad News Bears” is uninspired, unfunny and unnecessarily vulgar. I wouldn’t take a kid to see it unless you want him coming home talking like a sailor. The original was clever and edgy, but still a kid’s movie. This new version throws so much bad language and inappropriate humor at you that it’s well across the line of good taste.
The heart of the original film didn’t just lie with Walter Matthau – who is probably spinning in his grave at this rendition – but also with the misfit kids. Already this year we’ve seen two “Bad News Bears” rip-offs – “Kicking and Screaming” and “Rebound.” Somehow, “Bad News Bears” managed to come out on the bottom of this retro-70s pile-up.
I don’t blame the children acting in this movie. It’s clear they have talent, but director Richard Linklater was so unfocused that he never utilized their talents. I felt like I was watching Linklater’s gen-x pseudo classic “Slacker” again, only with less of a plot.
Linklater has no concept in how to time a joke. For example, in one sequence Coach Buttermaker (Thornton) is trolling for a team sponsor. You know he’s going to end up with something wildly inappropriate. However, the movie takes so long to get to the punch line, by the time you see the sponsor on the shirts, it’s lost its impact.
I only laughed twice in the whole film, and it seemed to bore the entire audience I saw it with. No one could stay in their seats. People were talking throughout the movie. No one seemed to care there was something happening on screen. I saw more focus in a kid-packed screening of “Madagascar” earlier this summer.
“Bad News Bears” is bad news indeed.