Please stop messing with the classics.
There are movies that I don't have any problem with being redone for a new generation. "The Italian Job" is a perfect example; it is dated and was never that great to begin with. "Ocean's Eleven" is another.
On the other hand, there are films like "The Bad News Bears." It's like remaking "Rocky;" why mess with a film that got it right. And yet filmmaker Richard Linklater ("School of Rock") attempts to do just that by recreating a classic, updating it for a new generation. At least he's starting off on the right foot – Billy Bob Thornton.
If you had asked me a year ago who I would pick as the perfect actor to replace Walter Matthau's curmudgeonly persona on-screen, I would have picked Thornton. His deadpan delivery is perfect for the washed-up, washed-out, over-washed Morris Buttermaker. He's dead to the world and it treats him likewise. He lives in the past that, thanks to an alcoholic haze, allows him to live life without ever committing to anything, including the group of youths he's hired to coach in little league baseball.
Corralled into doing it by a mother (Liz, played by Marcia Gay Harden) who filed an injunction to force the league to allow her son to play, Buttermaker sees this as a chance for an easy paycheck and initially cares little about the kids. All it takes is a little motivation from an opposing coach who embodies evil (Greg Kinnear as Roy Bullock) to help get him motivated to help his group of misfits succeed and turn his life around.
The kids are really hit-or-miss. Sometimes they are pretty good, especially when they can riff off Thornton's energy. At other times, especially when Sammi Kane Kraft takes the screen as pitcher extraordinaire Amanda Whurlitzer, it isn't so good. In fact, it can get downright bad. She may have a canon of an arm and look like she can play but she certainly can't act. The dialogue that comes out of her mouth is meant to sound raucous and irreverent but comes out sounding painfully forced.
Linklater worked miracles with the youthful cast in "School of Rock;" not so much here. Fortunately he did learn from his "School of Rock" mistakes by including a clear antagonist in Kinnear's Roy.
The structure of the film keeps its attention focused more on the dynamics of the team and their climactic crescendo instead of focusing on character moments. That's not to say they are eschewed; instead they are nicely interwoven into the film. Buttermaker slowly starts to care about the kids; and they about him.
Ultimately the film is a bunch of hits-and-misses; and unfortunately a lot more of the latter. That's not to say it didn't have its moments – it did, but they were few and far between. It's the same problem I had with "Bad Santa," which was written by the same crew. There were some wonderful moments that had me cracking up, but the character development in between is severely lacking. I felt no sense of joy or satisfaction from the success of the Bears, and I place that failing squarely on the shoulders of director Richard Linklater. The film's pace is uneven, the narrative unclear, and it almost feels like you need to see the original to appreciate this re-imagining.
I can't make a comparison of this to the original, but considering how many great things I've heard about the Matthau film I doubt it can live up. This version never truly engaged me as an audience member and I was drawn out of the narrative every time I heard a painful piece of dialogue recitation.
Moments of hilarity mixed with long stretches of mediocrity. I can't say the new "Bad News Bears" is all bad, but I can say that there aren't any good reasons for you to check this movie out.
Transferred beautifully in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this film looks as good as it did in theaters. The colors are solid, skin tones are nice, and there isn't much grain to be seen. It's as good as you can expect.
The main track on this set is a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix that uses the music cues and sound effects wonderfully. It's got a nice dynamic range and none of the dialogue is obscured. There is a wide variety of different songs featured in the film and this track showcases them nicely.
This single-disc film is pretty well packed with extra features. "At Bat with the Bears" is a featurette that talks with the stars and director Richard Linklater where they talk about the genesis of the modern project and how it was adapted from the original film.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who also wrote "Bad Santa," talk about their work in updating the story in the featurette "Writing the Bad News Bears." Their theory of the film by treating it as a "remix" instead of a remake, since they're adhering pretty closely to the original story.
"Scouting for the Big Leagues" is a casting featurette that mixes tapes from the kids with discussion about putting together the ensemble troupe. Casting director Joseph Middleton brings a great amount of information and perspective to the process.
Writers Requa and Ficarra sit down with director Linklater to talk about the movie as it runs along in a feature-length commentary. They release a ton of information about the minutia of the movie, how it was adapted, and some of the techniques undertaken to shoot the film. It's interesting and rarely dull.
Linklater talks through the work that had to be done to both get the kids in baseball shape and the work that was done in preparing the sports for camera in the "Spring Training" extra.
There are a half-dozen deleted scenes included with optional commentary from the writers and director. They don't look particularly good, haven't gone through a postproduction filter, but are nice to have and the commentary adds a lot of interesting perspective.
There are a couple of outtakes, also with an optional commentary. Who knew there needed to be commentary for line flubs.
"Video Baseball Cards" are short little bits that have information about the actors who populate this film.
Along with the theatrical trailer there are previews on this disc for "Bevis and Butthead," "Elizabethtown," "Barnyard," and "The Honeymooners."
I was honestly dissapointed by the new "Bad News Bears." The previews looked funny and it seemed to capture a spirit of fun. Unfortunately, as the film is stretched out over a couple of hours, it seems to lack focus or any sense of heart. By the end, I simply wanted it to be over, and didn't really care who won. It certainly wasn't me.