The Bad News Bears (1976)

(On DVD, October 2017) Either they don’t make kids movies like they did, or The Bad News Bears was an oddity even in its time. As we meet our protagonist day-drinking in the parking lot of a neighborhood baseball field, it’s obvious early on that this film goes for hard-luck gritty life lessons. Fortunately, it works even as it’s horrifying by 2017 standards: Seeing kids tag along an adult drinking beer while driving a convertible is the kind of thing that register as a very different kind of funny these days. Walter Matthau is pretty good as the initially reprehensible protagonist—a washed-up failure who learns lessons from coaching a team of early-teen misfits who shouldn’t even be playing in their league. Good character work (especially by Tatum O’Neal as a tomboy with a history and Jackie Earle Haley as a teenage hoodlum) helps a lot, and The Bad News Bears’ fondness for its oddball characters remains endearing even today. The various slurs aren’t so much fun, but given that the film is forty years old at this point, it’s not entirely unexpected. The ending remains a case study in how to transform defeat into a moral triumph. The score is also noteworthy, taking bits and pieces of opera Carmen for inspiration. There’s also an interesting, very American atmosphere to this bicentennial film—the emphasis on baseball helps ground it into a depiction of suburbia circa 1976.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *