Saturday, July 23, 2005


Take Me Out To The . . . Bad News Bears!?!

Thought I'd go with the theme from last time. However, this time, Carpenter was running the show, so we actually had the right tickets. The game was fun, even though our guys lost. The weather is still hot, which made for excellent viewing of the audience. You know what I mean. And there were like a million ponytails. A young enlisted woman from the local military base, along with the base's color guard, were on the field, and she sang the national anthem. Did a wonderful job. So did the crowd. They were respectful and appreciative, which is always nice to see. But the main reason I was up there was for the Matron's birthday. And apart from the flowers and the card and whatnot, I took her to a movie. I should say that I would have seen The Wedding Crashers, a second time for me, but she had already seen it since I told her how much I liked it. She agreed that it was hilarious. So we picked The Bad News Bears.

The first thing I should tell you is that they were mainly faithful to the original. The second thing I should tell you is to skip the new version and rent the old one instead. The third thing I should tell you is that I did laugh a few times, but for the most part, this comedy left me very slightly entertained. I left wishing I had seen something else instead.

Just on the slight chance you never saw the original version, it's the story of a bunch of loser kids who have been rejected from all the other teams in the league. One mother sues, and the league is forced to add another team. Billy Bob Thornton, a minor alcoholic former minor league ball player turned exterminator, is hired to coach them. Hilarity is supposed to ensue. Sadly, it did not. This is the sort of movie where characters grow. Coach Billy Bob coasts along, using the kids to help him at work instead of coaching them to be better players. The very first game, against the Yankees (coached by greg Kinnear) is finally forfeited by the Bears in the first half of the first inning. They never even got three outs on the Yankees for even one turn at bat of their own. As you can guess, the Yankees, past champions, will be playing the Bears in the championship game at the end of the movie.

After the disastrous first game, the boys all want to quit, which sobers up Coach Billy Bob. He actually starts teaching them to field, hit, and run the bases. They lose the next game, tie the game after that, and start winning after that. They start winning because Coach Billy Bob brings in the daughter of a woman he went with for a few years, who he taught to pitch during that time. She bonded with him as a father figure. He left her and her mother. The only way he gets her to play is to bribe her by paying for clothes and promising to help her get a car when she's old enough. Now they can keep other teams from scoring too many runs. Next they need hitting, and semi-delinquent, possibly too old, but at least in the same grade as the other kids Kelly Leak comes into the picture here. He apparently played for the Yankees and Coach Kinnear in the past, and hates the game because of it. He refuses to join the Bears until a Coach Kinnear encounter ticks him off enough to want revenge. Now all the wheels are spinning and the Bears winning streak unfolds as the kids grow into a real team.

When the Bears have one last game to win to get to the championship, Coach Billy Bob slips a little, ordering Kelly to hog the ball in the field, which ticks off the boy he steals the ball from. Of course they win, but at the warm ups before the big game, Kelly and stolen ball boy get in a fight; the team is divided. Coach Billy Bob admits he gave Kelly the orders, and it wasn't Kelly's fault. His rationale is that the kids want to win, don't they? We know that they just want to play, and it is Coach Billy Bob who is obsessed with winning, to the point of ruining it for the kids. Even during the final game, he has them marching like little soldiers, until finally realizing that they are, in fact, just kids. Even though they have the lead, he takes out pitcher Amanda, whose arm is hurting, and Tanner, the scrappiest kid you ever saw, and puts in a couple of bench warmers. The Bears promptly fall behind, and can't make up the difference in their final at bats. They lose, but in the game of life, they're winners. Which is fine. But how did Coach Billy Bob learn his lesson?

It was because of Coach Kinnear is even worse. He orders his son, who wants to face Engleberg, one of the Bears' good hitters, to walk him, figuring the next kid is an easy out. The son doesn't like it (he and Engleberg have a bit of healthy grudge working between them), but does what he's told. Unfortunately, the pitch gets away from him, nearly hitting the Engleberg. Coach Kinnear charges the mound, yelling at his son about how hitting a batter could really hurt him. Marginally fine so far. But he keeps yelling, thinking his son threw the pitch on purpose to get back at his dad, and eventually pushes him to the ground. Now the kid does get back at his dad, serving up an easy pitch Engleberg hits for a home run.

My main problem with the movie is that it didn't go far enough, either toward a grown up audience or toward a child's audience. The kids go to Hooters after games to celebrate, Coach Billy Bob's stripperish fan club of young women cheer at every game, and a father shoves his son to the ground. Not exactly positive images, or necessarily appropriate for kids who see the movie, but mild enough for a PG-13 which must have been based on language. For any grownup seeing this, you'll either be disappointed (if you never saw the original), or disappointed and angry that they did worse than the original movie if you did see it. Maybe youngish teens are immature enough to find it funny, but really, rent The Incredibles again, and give them a movie worth watching. Come to think of it, if you have kids, you already own it. Rent Spirited Away, which your kids probably haven't seen, and watch it with them instead. It's a movie worthy of your money, and your intelligence. A common team chant in the movie is "We're playing the Giants. What's that mean? Bad news for the Giants!" If you see the Bad News Bears, it only means bad news for you.

Oh and if you for some reason just have to see a movie with Billy Bob Thornton in which he's mean to kids but learns to love them instead, go rent Bad Santa. It's lots funnier. But just remember, it's not a movie for kids to watch.
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