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The Bad News Bears (1976)

In the year of our Bicentennial, America was celebrating life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There were fireworks, cheers of joy, and nifty new quarters. Out of all this patriotic glory, there came a movie about children and baseball. Through this film “the American dream” was alive again and children everywhere cussed for more, men bashed beer cans on their foreheads, and women sat on the sidelines fluffing their mullets. God, what a country! God, what a horrible movie! Unless you’re eager to be verbally abused by Walter Matthau or a team full of snot-nosed annoying pre-teen boys, I think you’ll be as unimpressed as I was with the original The Bad News Bears. The boys’ characters are ruthless, testy, foul, and as flat and un-dimensional as road kill. They are only there to run around, whine, and unnecessarily cuss. Matthau’s character actually has a past, a small one, but spends so much time drinking and smoking that it no longer appears shocking or silly. He makes off comments, scolds the kids, calls them names and appears gruff and rough most of the time. Perhaps, after all that drinking, if he ever became drunk in the movie we would have something to laugh about aside from him yelling at kids that can’t play ball.

Finally, after over an hour into the film we see a real past to Matthau that involves Tatum O’Neal’s character, the daughter of an ex-girlfriend whom he taught to pitch. O’Neal’s character is by far the most dynamic compared to all the others, but seems almost too grownup and rough. Her sharp tongue fits right in with all the other children on the team. With her addition, and that of another kid that looks nine, rides a Harley, and smokes a lot, suddenly the rest of the team learns though osmosis how to play and they actually have a chance at the championship. What sports movie doesn’t take a team to a damn championship?

It’s not that The Bad News Bears is repulsive, and I don’t know how it was received at the time, but I think for today’s standards, it’s weak. I don’t know that kids today would even like it. There aren’t any car chases. There aren’t any wizards. There aren’t any figures out on toy store shelves. It’s a movie that’s painful to watch and drags in pace the entire duration. The kids look just as pissed when they’re happy as when they’re mad, and several of the boys look alike so you can’t tell who’s bitching about who throughout most of the movie.

Often it’s the case that when you’re a child, objects and movies are dear to your heart and you grow up having fond memories of them. Then somewhere along the way you say to your friends, “oh, man, Time Bandits is the best film ever!” Then you all sit down to watch it and suddenly the funniest parts or the scariest parts aren’t so funny or scary any more and you wonder at the quality of your memory. The same must be true to The Bad News Bears, if you saw it in 1976 or sometime thereafter and liked it, you probably think I’m mistaken and need to “quit talkin’ ‘bout stuff I don unner stand.” Or, you also are seeing it for the first time, twenty-nine years after it was put out, and are hoping beyond all hope that the remake has any redeeming quality. (Not that we’re so interested in seeing that either.) Now, it’s hard to review the extras of a movie that was made before DVDs. The justification being that there are no extras. There was no reason back then for people to shoot Behind the Scenes footage, or interview the actors involved. It just wasn’t done. If you wanted the movie you bought the VHS tape, popped it in the VCR, watched from beginning to end, and that was that. From what I recall, I don’t even think all those tapes have previews at the beginning. Ah, those were the days, weren’t they?

However, if the movie business wasn’t money minded enough back then, they are now. Almost anytime there is a remake nowadays there’s no reason to let the new movie take away the spotlight from the old. Do you hear those bells? It’s Special Edition time!!! Ding. Ding. Ding. This is the perfect time to go back and revisit all those snotty kids who are now somewhere in their forties or fifties and ask them what it was like to be in the original The Bad News Bears. What’s it like to be a star? Have they been “in” anything lately? Have they been in anything since? Yet somehow this opportunity was lost with this movie. Here comes the remake, but no Special Edition to be seen.

I’m not asking for a lot here. Just something else to watch to fix this pain in my heart over how much I disliked this film. Something to restore it and my faith in the average movie. Someone sitting behind a desk somewhere should have jumped at the opportunity to re-release this (and I use the term loosely) classic!