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Bad News Bears

Bad News…

This one really had potential. With the writing team from Bad Santa on board, Bad Santa himself (Billy Bob Thornton) as curmudgeonly coach Morris Buttermaker and Linklater at the helm, it would not be unexpected to see Bad News Bears (a remake of 1970's sports film The Bad News Bears) knock one out of the park. Unfortunately, Bad News Bears is primarily wasted potential and strikes out on most fronts.

But, let's focus on the lone bright spot of the film. Billy Bob Thornton does an excellent job as the drunk, washed up, former ballplayer Morris 'The Blade' Buttermaker. Having made his mark playing 2/3 of an inning in the majors, Morris decided to cash in his short-lived baseball success for a life of drinking, debauchery, and rat extermination.

It's a natural evolution for a talent such as Morris. Thornton is crass, uncouth, offensive, and yet somehow becomes disturbingly endearing as the film progresses. It's a role Thornton was made for (much like Bad Santa) and it's evident he really digs Buttermaker.

Buttermaker gets bribed into coaching a group of kids who are pretty much 'Buttermakers' in the making sans the booze, debauchery, etc. These kids have zero aptitude for the game and Buttermaker initially has zero interest in helping these kids learn to play, let alone win. Of course, inevitably, Buttermaker has a change of heart that catalyzes the evolution of this team from losers to...well…not quite winners.

Unfortunately, none of the performances of the young cast match that of Thornton's. Most of the kids are foul-mouthed, obnoxious, and all too willing to charge the mound. But, none of them are particularly well developed (which was one of the bright spots of the original The Bad News Bears) and their continued bad behavior doesn't elicit more than a few minutes of laughter.

Unfortunate also is that Linklater's talents were completely wasted on a remake that is virtually identical to the original. While theoretically this film takes place in the present, it still has a distinctly 70's flavor to it. Bad News Bears is little more than exercise of going through the motions. The 70's influence is apparent in the car Buttermaker drives, the haircuts the kids sport, and the clothes they wear. There isn't even a fleeting glance of a cellphone!

It's not just the look and the feel of the film that smacks of the original, but the plot elements, the shots, and the trajectory of the film. There isn't nearly enough new material injected into this remake to allow it to stand on its own and the film is dwarfed by the shadow of its predecessor (not that the original was a cinematic masterpiece). The few changes from the original involve Thornton's take on Buttermaker and the quirks and idiosyncrasies he brings to the role.

Ultimately, what we are left with is a marginally mediocre kiddie sports film that would have been better served with a brand new script (as opposed to an updated version of the original), more of Billy Bob's Buttermaker, and more of the energy and fun Linklater exhibited in School of Rock. Alas, this one truly is Bad News.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars