Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on April 7, 1976
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Written by Bill Lancaster
Cast: Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, Vic Morrow, Joyce Van Patten, Ben Piazza, Jackie Earle Haley, Alfred Lutter III, Chris Barnes, Erin Blunt, Gary Lee Cavagnaro, David Pollock, Quinn Smith, Brandon Cruz, George Wyner, Shari Summers
The essence of being a baseball-playing kid and growing up in the mid-1970s is captured beautifully in director Michael Ritchie’s surprisingly well-rendered and unexpectedly profane look at a diverse collection of Little League ballplayers, brought together by circumstance and their lack of ballplaying skills, to be managed by a boozehound pool cleaner named Morris Buttermaker, a former minor leaguer whose only reason for coaching is the promise of a paycheck.
Initially the laughingstock of the league, the misfit Bears—sporting yellow-and-white uniforms, a low-end name, and a bail bonds agency as a sponsor—soon come together to make a spirited and believable run for the pennant, with the help of a first-rate female pitcher and hoodlum outfielder suddenly at their disposal. A typical baseball set-up, yes, but it’s how this framework was presented, and the fact that these characters and their surroundings were so true-to-life, that made this baseball comedy not only one of the best and most appealing films about the sport at this age level, but about the sport, period.
I was thirteen when I first saw The Bad News Bears, and I loved it then, but seeing it now as an adult I was surprised at how much fun I had with it, and the memories it brought back of my own short-but-sweet Little League career (most memorably with the California First Bank Cardinals, for those of you keeping score). From practices to team pictures to summertime games on Saturday afternoons, I was impressed with how well Ritchie and screenwriter Bill Lancaster delivered the baseball goods, and how convincing the kids and adults were in their roles.
Walter Matthau was spot-on as the Bears reluctant coach, as was Tatum O’Neal as the team’s feisty right-hander, but credit should also go to the collection of young actors portraying her teammates, who were quite natural when it came to their actions and line delivery, and—as members of the Bears—at playing hopeless ballplayers as well. Add to that an equal balance of bad lessons as well as good, the scathing look at youth sports competition, the wonderful use of classical music on the soundtrack, some genuinely funny dialogue, and a wrap-up you might not be expecting, and you have yourself one heck of a good time on the ball field. (9/10)