let me say I'm not a nostalgic guy and I don't look at my own
childhood through fucked up lenses that make everything I saw
or owned look better than what kids have today. Okay, we had Wacky
Packs and kids today don't. Other than that, though, I think nostalgia
is for cowards and simpletons. I don't have a problem with people
remaking what we had as kids, as long as they do it well and have
a good reason for doing it.
News Bears doesn't. It's a remake of the 1976 flick The
Bad News Bears, a movie my parents wouldn't let me go to because
it was rated PG. I'm not telling you that because I'm bitter.
Far from it. Shit, in retrospect, I'm really glad they wouldn't
let me see it with my friends because it gave me extra time to
ride around on my sister's hand-me-down pink Schwinn Li'l Chic
and get called a homo. Who knows, if I had seen that movie, maybe
I wouldn't have gotten beaten up so much, punched in the nuts
by girls, wet myself during my fourth-grade speech about Jimmy
Carter, or discovered alcohol's magical talents. Maybe instead
of the super awesome life I have getting loaded with my bitey
dog in a basement apartment I'd be a miserable rich phony in a
big house surrounded by a bunch of fake friends who return his
calls and like doing stuff with him, and who isn't banned from
the library for throwing up in the children's board book bin.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. Seriously. Without you, nobody would be reading
this. Of course, I wouldn't need validation from strangers, but
that's beside the point.
makers of the 2005 Bad News Bears stripped the "The" off
the original's title. Maybe to make it more streamlined, aerodynamic,
built for speed. Maybe to make is sexier, like the skimpy little
size 18 black cocktail dress the Mrs. hangs on the closet to entice
her to shed a few pounds against my wishes. Or maybe it's because
those jackasses in Hollywood have too much fucking time on their
hands and too little imagination. I mean, what the hell? How many
marketing man-hours did it take to make that call? Who even bothered
to think about it? Maybe it was Richard Linklater's pitch for
"You know, the original was pretty good, but what if--and I'm
thinking outside the box here--what if we dropped the The?"
Chief: "Barbara! Bring me my giant checkbook, and hurry!"
think that's how it went because Linklater apparently didn't bring
any other ideas to the table. All Bad News Bears does is
rough up the story of the original without adding any grace or
charm. In the most critical places, it rips scenes verbatim from
the original, and in other places it apes them with added vulgarity
and subtracted meaning. This is crap.
Bob Thornton is Morris Buttermaker, a former pitcher turned burn-out
alcoholic exterminator asked to manage a rag-tag team of kids
so bad at baseball their parents had to sue a Little League just
to allow them to play. As in the original, there is the shy, awkward
kid Lupus, the fat kid, the kid too cool for school and the girl
pitcher with the bum arm. Just in case we're too fucking stupid
to know these guys are underdogs, Linklater tacks on a kid in
a wheelchair and makes the nerd a bigger and lamer stereotype
than Steve Urkel. Fuck, I wish he were Urkel. That dude had nuance.
like in the original, this team of losers band together to go
from worst to the championship game, against a team led by an
overly-competitive father (Greg Kinnear) who represents everything
bad about youth athletics. Kinnear's character is such an asshole
that his behavior causes Thornton to reconsider his own. The result
is that the Bears don't win the championship, but have more fun
losing than the champs do winning.
one of the great tragic stories, really. Right up there with Beowulf
and Richie Rich. The original movie was made for kids and empowered
them. Not me, because--as I already said--my parents wouldn't
let me go see it. Thank you again, Mom and Dad. Anyway, it was
a foul-mouthed fuck you from kids to the parents that had forgotten
who youth sports were really for. I can only imagine kids watching
in 1976 saw an expression of something they felt but had no idea
how to say. That is, chill out, Mom, it's just a damn game.
News Bears doesn't empower anyone. Instead, this version is
all about Thornton as Buttermaker, a cool cat who does naughty
things. Where the first one showed kids talking the way kids talk
when the parents aren't around, this one is about Thornton acting
like the coolest middle-aged alcoholic in the world. Strippers
love him, soccer moms fuck him and he skates through life.
a load of crap. When you're in your 20s and drunk, you still have
a chance of being cool. Chicks might dig your devil-may-care attitude
or the charm that gets you by when you're young. But by the time
you're in your 40s, being nothing more than a drunk means you
fucked up. The only middle-aged drunks that get as much tail as
Thornton does in Bad News Bears are either rich or Kennedys.
Otherwise, still getting blitzed, being poor and hanging around
Hooters is as good as a neon sign blinking "Loser". Which you
are. Think about it: who was the last cool, poor 45-year-old drunk
you met? Don't say Tom Waits because he's bathing in dough.
point is that Linklater and the writers Glenn Ficarra and John
Requa think that Thornton's Buttermaker is too cool for their
own good. Thornton wears his alcoholism like a nice pair of cufflinks.
It's a fashion detail that enhances his look without ever stopping
him from being crassly witty, on time or charming. He doesn't
have anyplace to go as a character if we're already supposed to
be enthralled by him. Sure he's a drunk, sure he's poor, and sure
he's a selfish bastard. According to the movie, though, that's
the kids get the shaft. They are poorly drawn, reduced to walking
punchlines. The fat kid is on Atkins, the handicapped kid is politically
incorrect, and the girl is too obsessed with sex issues. None
of this builds to a payoff or out of concern for them. It's there
because it gives the writers chances to say shock us. Lazily shock
original The Bad News Bears was the way kids really talk
when parents aren't around, using dirty words to see how they
felt. It didn't show some adult's idealized version of them, and
the vulgarity wasn't gratuitous. In fact, it was genuinely sweet.
The new Bad News Bears is vulgar and crass, sour like a
newly widowed old man. The kids sound like what comes out of the
minds of mediocre screenwriters. And the nerd kid uses a laptop
to calculate team success not because real kids do, but because
it's a convenient way to remind us he's a nerd. Hell, the movie
doesn't even seem to like kids. It likes Thornton, and only Thornton.
The moral victory at the end--which one character has to actually
explain is a "moral victory"--isn't for them. And it isn't for
Thornton either. It's just a way to wrap up a string of bad jokes.
example of how this movie is crass in the wrong ways is the ending.
In the original, the Bears celebrate losing the championship with
a shower of Buttermaker's beer. In the new one, the kids celebrate
with beer, but it's very clearly pointed out that it's non-alcoholic.
Somehow, in the easy-joke logic of Bad News Bears, the
priorities are that it's okay to show kids spraying themselves
with rat poison, but not with beer. You want to be crass, but
you don't want to piss off any potential advertisers. Another
example is a scene where Thornton hires a dwarf to pretend to
be a kid on the team. It's a cheap, easy joke that totally fucks
the story by being so outlandish it indicates that the story means
less than the jokes to Linklater. Which is too bad because the
jokes aren't very good.
a baseball fan, I was also pissed off by a small but telling detail
of the movie. A kid refers to Thornton's brief major league career
as being only two-thirds of an inning with an ERA of 36. In fact,
you can't have an ERA of 36 in two-thirds of an inning. It can
be 27 (two runs allowed) or 40.50 (three runs), but 36 is impossible.
(ERA=Earned runs allowed/innings pitched*nine--see for yourself)
How can filmmakers who claim to love baseball but can't even get
this detail right hope to make a movie with its heart in the right
course, they don't have their hearts in the right place. Rather,
they have their heads up their asses and their hands in our pockets.
This thing is a cash grab for the wallets of the nostalgic who
can't remember why they liked the original. Two Fingers
for Bad News Bears.
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