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Minor League baseball player Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton) earns his living as a rat catcher and lives in a trailer. A booze-sodden, misanthropic loser, Buttermaker needs a few extra dollars and agrees to coach a Little League team, strictly for the cash. His collection of outcasts and delinquents only exists as the result of an equal opportunity lawsuit filed by attorney Liz Whitewood (Marcia Gay Harden) and its early season performances are disastrous. Things change when Buttermaker eases off on the sauce and recruits his fast-pitching ex-stepdaughter Amanda (Sammi Kane Kraft). Suddenly, the Bad News Bears are in with a chance of beating the slick Yankees, coached by Buttermaker's arch rival Bullock (Greg Kinnear).

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Like Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes Of Hazzard, Bad News Bears is yet another 70's remake/rehash striving to justify its existence. It also seems confused about who it's aimed at. Too tame to attract now middle-aged viewers who remember the original and want to see Billy Bob Thornton play it like Bad Santa, it's still a little too raunchy to secure parental approval for pre-highschoolers. It has at least some appeal for most viewers but may not have enough to capture any group in large numbers.

Typical of its problems is a scene in which Buttermaker takes his team to Hooters as a treat. It's funny for a moment watching bodacious babes serving ribs to google-eyed boys, but then the scene does not know what to do with itself and fizzles away. The original with Walter Matthau as the boozehound coach and Tatum O'Neal as the 12 year-old with a mean pitching arm did the job just fine in 1976 and this time around it's pretty much the same, only not as good. Matthau also had a chainsmoking slugger on board and you won't see that in this version. Parents would probably file lawsuits these days.

What you will see is Thornton sliding in enough of the Bad Santa act to pass the time amiably. Surely the first and only choice to step into Matthau's shoes, Thornton gives it a good shot as the broken down old bum who manages to make the audience sympathise with him more than a lesser actor might have in the part. I liked the subtle changes in Buttermaker's character and was relieved that he did not suddenly sober up completely and transform into an ideal role model for his charges. The big disappointment here is the juvenile performers.

A film like this demands a winning collection of misfits, oddballs and ethnic minority representatives who overcome their sporting and social challenges in the most loveable ways. Sadly, this assembly is a fairly dull lot, with only Sammi Kane Kraft showing much form as Buttermaker's former-step daughter. Elsewhere there's a laudable nod to political correctness with the inclusion of wheelchair bound Matthew (Troy Gentile) and Indian maths nerd Aman (Prem Lahiri), but the situations they're placed in and performance levels are disappointing. Essaying the role played with much more venom by Vic Morrow in 1976, Greg Kinnear does what's required as super-competitive rival coach Bullock and Marcia Gay Harden is under-utilised as the socially conscious lawyer who puts the team on the park in the first place. A bit more Harden-Thornton heat would have been welcome from this vantage point in the bleachers. Still, this is the Billy Bob Thornton show and everybody's favourite redneck doesn't let the team down when it counts.

There's a commentary by director Richard Linklater and co-screenplay writers on the DVD, together with special features, deleted scenes and outtakes with optional commentary.

Published Jun 29, 2006

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(US, 2005)

CAST: Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Sammi Kane Kraft, Ridhe Canipe, Brendon Craggs, Jeffrey Davies,

PRODUCER: Geyer Kosinski, Richard Linklater

DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater

SCRIPT: Bill Lancester, Glenn Ficara, John Requa


EDITOR: Sandra Adair

MUSIC: Ed Shearmur


RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 8, 2005


SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Director Richard Linklater and co-screenplay writers/At Bat with the Bears/ Writing the film/ Scouting for the Big Leagues/Spring Trailing/Deleted scenes with optional commentary; outtakes with optional commentary; theatrical trailer


DVD RELEASE: July8, 2006

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