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Richard Linklater
Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden, Sammi Kane Kraft, Ridge Canipe, Brandon Craggs, Jeffrey Davies, Timmy Deters, Carlos Estrada, Emmanuel Estrada
Writing Credits:
Bill Lancaster, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, Bill Lancaster (1976 screenplay)

Baseball has rules. Meet the exceptions.

Billy Bob Thornton delivers a wickedly funny performance in this hilarious hit from the director of School of Rock.

Morris Buttermaker (Thornton), former pro ballplayer turned exterminator, expects to make some easy money coaching a struggling Little League team called the Bears. What he gets is a ragtag group of inept players who transform the field of dreams into the stuff of nightmares! Taunted byian arrogant rival coach (Greg Kinnear), pressured by his new employer (Marcia Gay Harden), and challenged by the Bears, Buttermaker must somehow step up to the plate and help his players become something they never imagined they could be: a team.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$11.382 million on 3183 screens.
Domestic Gross
$32.865 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 12/13/2005

• Audio Commentary from Director Richard Linklater and Writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
• Four Featurettes
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Video Baseball Cards
• Theatrical Trailer
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Bad News Bears: Special Collector's Edition (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 1, 2005)

Plenty of movie remakes hit the screens in 2005, but not many of them succeeded at the box office. With a take of $206 million, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the biggest winner, but The Longest Yard also performed well; it took in a pretty positive $158 million. (I didn’t count War of the Worlds since it was more of a new book adaptation than a remake.)

After that, the remake numbers decline precipitously. Guess Who comes next way down at $67 million, while The Amityville Horror follows close behind at $64 million.

To get to the remake of 1976’s The Bad News Bears, you have to keep going down that list. You’ll finally hit it at $32 million. While not an expensive movie to make, $32 million still represents a poor take, especially since director Richard Linklater’s last flick – 2003’s The School of Rock - was a decent hit.

I wish I could say that the 2005 Bears deserved to be a bigger success ala Rock, but that would be a lie. A tepid reworking of the original material, this one adds little to the package and usually falls flat.

At the start of Bears, we meet Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton), a semi-alcoholic former baseball player who now exterminates rats. A local attorney/single mother named Liz Whitewood (Marcia Gay Harden) hires Buttermaker to coach a new team formed in a very competitive southern California Little League division. Of course, Little League coaches are supposed to work unpaid, but mercenary and callous Buttermaker just wants a little extra cash to supplement his meager income.

The new team – called the Bears – was formed due to legal actions taken by Whitewood. Apparently the league in question refused to accept a lot of seemingly less-talented kids, and Whitewood needs a team for his son Toby (Ridge Canipe). As such, the Bears are a repository for all of the outcasts who couldn’t make the already-established teams.

Inevitably, this group of misfits stinks at the start. Buttermaker does little to coach them and they quickly become the laughingstock of the league. In their first game against the league champions Yankees – coached by excessively intense Roy Bullock (Greg Kinnear) - they get beaten so badly that Buttermaker needs to forfeit the game.

Although he initially only cares about the money, eventually Buttermaker tries to really shape his team into something better. As part of this, he recruits ace pitcher Amanda Wurlitzer (Sammi Kane Kraft). The daughter of an ex-girlfriend, he taught Amanda skills that made her an excellent hurler, and she proceeds to add respectability to the Bears.

The final piece of the puzzle arrives with juvenile delinquent Kelly Leak (Jeffrey Davies). A prototypical bad boy with terrific hitting and fielding skills, Amanda tries to land him for the club but fails. However, when Bullock gives Kelly a severe chewing-out and tells the kid he’s a loser who isn’t good enough for this final baseball league, he has something to prove and hooks up with the Bears.

From there, the team goes on a dizzying run during which they beat pretty much everybody in sight. Eventually they do well enough to earn a spot in the league championship game against their archrivals.

Unfortunately, along the way Buttermaker turns into something of a jerk. Like the hated Bullock, he becomes wrapped up in winning at all costs, and it takes its toll on his relationships with the kids. When she indicates a desire to see him in the off-season, Buttermaker basically tells Amanda he’s just using her, and he berates the other players to an excessive degree.

Will Buttermaker see the light and come to his senses? Will the Bears beat the Yankees and become league champions? I don’t want to give away all of the plot surprises, so I’ll leave well enough alone. However, I will note that Bears doesn’t end as predictably as one might expect.

Unless you saw the first movie, that is. If you compare this plot synopsis to the one I did for the 1976 version of Bears, you’ll find very few changes. I did the old cut and paste because the stories remained exceedingly similar. While not a literal remake of the Gus Van Sant Psycho style, the 2005 Bears offers a lot of shots and scenes that strongly echo bits from the original.

I recognize that remakes have a tough path. They need to provide some connection to their predecessors, but they don’t want to slavishly copy those flicks. Again, while this Bears stays out of “slavish copy” territory much of the time, it strikes me as too similar to the original to be very worthwhile.

Part of the problem is that the first Bears was pretty good. I’ve always thought that remakes are logical only when they redo bad films. Some exceptions to this rule exist, and many of us sure hope that Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong will offer a worthy reworking of the 1933 original.

Still, it usually doesn’t make a lot of sense to redo something that worked fine in the first place, and if you plan to do so, give the new one an alternate spin to let it stand on its own. The 2005 Bears fails to achieve that goal. It makes some small twists, admittedly. The most significant comes from a change in Whitewood’s gender. That character was a male in the original instead of the single mother here. That allows for some romance between her and Buttermaker but otherwise contributes nothing to the story.

The 2005 Bears also puts a politically correct spin on things. Based on the DVD’s extras, the filmmakers think they’ve made a very un-PC flick, and perhaps compared to other modern movies they might be right. However, the flick sweetens things up a little more than I’d like. Sure, I understand the omission of the “Jews, spics, niggers” rant from the original – that was a pretty daring line even in 1976. But some other changes in niceness occur, especially in regard to the Bullock character. The first movie made him an unrelenting prick, whereas this one gives him more heart, particularly in the scene when he confronts his son. This makes the character more sympathetic, but we don’t want that here; we need a moustache-twirling villain instead.

As for the acting, the adults do just fine. Thornton is almost always the best thing about the films in which he appears, and that remains true here. He avoids a Walter Matthau impersonation and makes the part his own. Despite the limitations placed on them by the script, Kinnear and Harden offer good turns.

On the other hand, the kids seem less satisfying. Some of them are okay, but Kraft and Davies are simply atrocious. Perhaps I shouldn’t come down on them too hard since they’re not professional actors; they were cast more for their baseball skills than for their screen talent. Nonetheless, they can’t act at all. Both find one facial expression and attitude and stick with it the whole film. I started to feel sorry for the kids, as I think the filmmakers threw them to the wolves here.

But they’re not the biggest problem with Bears. Nor is its derivative nature or lack of anything new to say. The biggest issue comes from the lack of entertainment on the screen. With the talented adult actors and a good director behind it, shouldn’t this flick have been funny? I waited for the laughs to come, but they never arrived. The 2005 Bad News Bears stands as little more than a pointless remake.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Bad News Bears appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only a few persistent flaws made this transfer less than stellar.

Print defects were the culprit. Throughout the film, I saw occasional specks and bits of grit. These never became overwhelming, but they cropped up periodically and made the image dirtier than I’d expect for a brand-new film.

Otherwise the movie looked great. At all times, I thought sharpness was crisp and well-defined. No signs of softness popped up during the film. I noticed no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent.

Colors went with a natural palette. The movie depicted these hues well, as they looked nicely bright and dynamic. Blacks were dense and firm, while low-light shots appeared smooth and appropriately rendered. Lose the print defects and this transfer jumps to “A” level.

While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Bad News Bears suffered from no obvious flaws, it only earned a “B-“ due to its lack of ambition. This was a subdued mix that rarely used the spectrum to any substantial degree. The only sequence that really opened up matters came during the Bloodfarts’ concert. At that time, the surrounds kicked in and we got a good feeling of environment.

Otherwise, the back speakers were used for basic ambience and no more. Given the movie’s comedic nature, that wasn’t a huge surprise, but I expected more from the many baseball scenes. Those never did much to expand their horizons, and this remained a restricted soundfield.

At least no issues with audio quality manifested themselves. Speech was concise and distinctive, and I discerned no problems with those elements. Music played the biggest role in the film and sounded good. Those elements appeared lively and dynamic. Effects came across as accurate and crisp, though they did little to challenge my system. Overall, the mix earned a good but unexceptional “B-“.

Heading to the extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Richard Linklater and writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. They discuss adaptation issues, the script and changes found in the final flick, casting and working with the actors, dealing with all the kids, and a few technical issues.

For the most part, the track works well. The men interact in a nice manner as they go through the various topics. We get a good feel for the production along with some humor. Heck, they even refer to the fact the movie “tanked” at the box office! The guys seem a little too self-impressed at times and a smattering of dead air occurs, but this is still a useful and enjoyable piece.

A mix of featurettes appear. At Bat With the Bears runs 11 minutes and 32 seconds. It presents notes from Linklater, actors Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear and Marcia Gay Harden, producer J. Geyer Kosinski, executive producer Marcus Viscidi, They discuss casting the main adult actors and shooting the baseball sequences. We learn about the characters, the actors’ takes on their roles, and making the baseball look real. All of this takes on a somewhat superficial gloss, unfortunately. A reasonable amount of info appears but the program doesn’t feel particularly substantial.

In Writing the Bad News Bears, we find a nine-minute and 39-second look at that side of things. This features remarks from Ficarra and Requa as well as Thornton and Linklater. They discuss how the writers came onto the project and get into many issues related to updating the original. They also chat about research and baseball authenticity in this tight and informative piece.

Scouting for the Big Leagues addresses casting the kids. It fills 10 minutes and 18 seconds with notes from Linklater, casting director Joseph Middleton, and actors Sammi Kane Kraft and Jeffrey Davies. We hear why the various kids got their roles and also see some of their audition tapes. The latter offer the best part of the program, as the rest tends toward fluffy praise for the kids.

For a look at shooting the games, we go to Spring Training. The four-minute and 39-second piece includes notes from Linklater, Kraft, Davies, technical advisors Greg Smith and Steve Savage, and actors KC Harris, Brandon Craggs, and Ridge Canipe. The show covers training the kids to play and issues related to filming the ballgames. Despite its brevity, this is a pretty good little clip.

Six Deleted Scenes run a total of eight minutes and 53 seconds. “Pay Off” was a good one to cut; it makes Toby’s mom look too nasty. “Coach & Pitcher Talk” also needed to get the boot since it softens Buttermaker too early. “Teasing the Pitcher” is really just a blooper reel, as it presents a few aborted takes. “Playing Football” shows silent footage of the team having fun and isn’t very interesting.

“Playing Catch – Take 1” shows Buttermaker and Hooper as they toss the ball and chat. It’s amusing but would’ve been inappropriate in the final film. “Don’t Trust Whitey” is the funniest of the lot. I don’t know how well it would have fit in the end product, but lean toward thinking it should have stayed; it’s more entertaining than most of what they kept.

We can view these with or without commentary from Linklater, Ficarra and Requa. As usual, they cover issues related to the shots and let us know why they were cut. Amusingly, they run out of things to say during “Catch” but still try to fill the time.

Next we get three Outtakes clips. Via “Play All”, these go for 89 seconds. One offers a gag from Thornton, while the others are goofs. None seem very interesting. These also can be examined with or without commentary from the usual trio. They let us know who Cat Osterman – the player mentioned in the Thornton clip – is but don’t have anything interesting to say for the other two.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we discover some Video Baseball Cards. These present notes about actors Thornton, Craggs, Kraft, Canipe, Davies, Harris, Tyler Patrick Jones, Troy Gentile, Carlos Estrada, Aman Johal, Emmanuel Estrada, Jeffrey Tadmori, and Timmy Deters. A twist on the usual cast biographies, these let the actors introduce themselves and then show some basic text about them. It’s an insubstantial but cute extra.

The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Barnyard, Elizabethtown, The Honeymooners film, Beavis and Butthead: The Mike Judge Collection and the new Airplane “Don’t Call Me Shirley” DVD.

Some remakes improve upon the original film, while others don’t add much. 2005’s Bad News Bears falls into the latter category. The movie doesn’t bring much fresh to the tale and feels like a wasted effort. The DVD offers pretty good picture and audio along with a mixture of decent extras. Stick with the original Bears.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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