Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bad News Bears (2005 film)

Directed by Richard Linklater and screenplay by Bill Lancaster, Glenn Ficarra, and John Requea from a story by Lancaster, Bad News Bears is the story of a washed-up minor league baseball player who coaches a misfit little league team as he tries to help them become a great team. A remake of the 1976 that was written by Lancaster and directed by Michael Ritchie, the film is an update of sorts on the story as it explores a man who would help this team of kids who aren’t the best players in the world with the help of a couple of talented kids. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, and Marcia Gay Harden. Bad News Bears is a fun and engaging film from Richard Linklater.

The film is an updated yet faithful version of the 1976 film where it revolves around this former minor league baseball player who is often drunk as he works as an exterminator where he is hired by an attorney to coach a little league baseball team full of misfits. While the film’s script does play true to the original story where this man in Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton) coaches a team that is full of kids that are the last group of kids that anyone wants in a team. Though they don’t start out well as they lose their first game badly, they do improve with each game as Buttermaker gets the help of an ex-girlfriend’s daughter in Amanda Wurlitzer (Sammi Kane Kraft) and a young troublemaker in Kelly Leak (Jeffrey Leakes). While the story if quite formulaic, it does have a sense of raunchy humor and dirty language that does pay true to the original film while not being afraid to be politically incorrect at times.

Richard Linklater’s direction is quite simple in the way he captures the world of little league baseball as well as the idea of misfits trying to make it in little league. Much of the compositions are quite simple with some unique crane shots to capture the scope of the baseball field. There’s a liveliness to the direction where Linklater even puts in little moments that pays tribute to the original film. There’s also moments where Linklater isn’t afraid to cross the line in what is acceptable for kids to behave and such as they’re with this washed-up drunk who only went to the major league for a tiny bit as he often curses and gets pissed drunk. Among the things that Linklater does do to update the story is feature the world of Austin, Texas such as its skate parks and other places to give it a new look while providing some moments that is all about the love for baseball. Overall, Linklater creates a very worthwhile yet engaging film about a former baseball player coaching a team of misfits.

Cinematographer Rogier Stoffers does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s very simple for many of its daytime exteriors while it features some low-key lights for some of the nighttime interior scenes. Editor Sandra Adair does terrific work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward while includes a few montages to play into the evolution of the team. Production designer Bruce Curtis, with set decorator Brana Rosenfeld and art director David Lazan, does nice work with the look of the baseball field as well as the skate park where Amanda meets Kelly.

Costume designer Karen Patch does wonderful work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual plus an updated look of the Bears uniform with a very unlikely sponsor on the back. Visual effects supervisor David Lombardi does superb work with some of the minimal visual effects that plays to the building confidence of the Bears. Sound editors Russell Farmarco and Beth Sterner do some brilliant work on the sound from the atmosphere at the ballpark to the way the bat hit’s the ball. The film’s music by Ed Shearmur is very good for its low-key approach to the score where it‘s a mixture of rock and electronic music with updated interpretations of George Bizet‘s opera Carmen while music supervisor Randall Poster brings in a fantastic soundtrack that features an array of music from rock and punk rock to play into the energy of the film as well as the spirit of Austin, Texas.

The casting by Joseph Middleton is great as it features some notable small roles from Nectar Rose as a stripper-girlfriend of Buttermaker in Paradise, Carter Jenkins as the Yankees pitcher Joey Bullock, Chase Winton as the little league supervisor Ms. Cleveland, and Arabella Holzbog as Joey’s mother and Roy’s wife Shari. In the roles of the Bad News Bears, there’s Carlos and Emmanuel Estrada in their respective roles as the non-English speaking Manuel and Jose Aguilar, Aman Johal as the Indian Prem Lahiri, Troy Gentile as the wheelchair cripple Matthew Hooper, Tyler Patrick Jones as the shy Timmy Lupus, Timmy Deters as the small but fierce Tanner Boyle, Ridge Canipe as the limited but helpful Toby Whitewood, Kenneth “K.C.” Harris as the African-American Ahmad Abdul Rahim and Jeffrey Tedmori as the Armenian Garo as all of them bring a lot of spark to their roles.

Jeffrey Davies is excellent as the motorcycle-riding teen Kelly Leak who despises Roy Bullock as he helps the Bears while Sammi Kane Kraft is fantastic as Amanda Wurlitzer who is a great pitcher as she hopes to renew the broken friendship with Buttermaker. Marcia Gay Harden is wonderful as Toby’s mother Liz who asks Buttermaker to coach the Bears in the hope that she can get her son and other kids the chance to play. Greg Kinnear is super as the Yankees coach Roy Bullock who is a guy that loves to win as his competitiveness rubs Buttermaker the wrong way. Finally, there’s Billy Bob Thornton in an incredible performance as Morris Buttermaker as a washed-up minor league pitcher who is an alcoholic as he tries to coach a team of misfits as it’s a character filled with some self-loathing but also one that is trying to find some redemption for his mistakes.

Bad News Bears is a stellar film from Richard Linklater thanks in part to the superb performance of Billy Bob Thornton and a young yet marvelous cast. While it doesn’t do anything new while being a faithful remake to the 1976 film, it is still a pretty enjoyable baseball movie as it retains some of the original film’s political incorrectness. In the end, Bad News Bears is a pretty good film from Richard Linklater.

Richard Linklater Films: It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books - Slacker - Dazed & Confused - Before Sunrise - subUrbia - The Newton Boys - Waking Life - Tape - School of Rock - School of Rock - A Scanner Darkly - Fast Food Nation - Me and Orson Welles - Bernie (2011 film) - Before Midnight - Boyhood - Everybody Want Some!! - The Auteurs #57: Richard Linklater Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2014


Dell said...

Glad you liked this one. Lots of people hate it and say it sick compared to the original. I actually had a ball watching this and thought Billy Bob Thornton was fantastic. Great review.

thevoid99 said...

It's a film that I think is a very faithful adaptation to the original. Of course it wasn't going to measure up to the original but I think Linklater and Thornton knew that and decided to do their own spin and have fun with it. I had fun with it.

Brittani Burnham said...

I didn't mind this remake at all, but it's sad to know that Sammi Kane Kraft passed away already. She was so young.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Yeah, I was bummed that she passed away. She really brought something of her own as Amanda which I really liked. She wasn't Tatum O'Neal but she was damn good.

Unknown said...

I like this movie well enough but after SCHOOL OF ROCK it felt a bit like a step back for Linklater as he mined similar ground, IMO.

That being said, there are worse ways to spend 90 min. and the movie is certainly entertaining even if Thornton is playing a variation of his BAD SANTA character.

thevoid99 said...

@J.D. LAFRANCE-I knew it was going to be a step down from the films Linklater was doing at that time but he at least made it enjoyable. Sure, Thornton was playing a version of Bad Santa but at least he looked like he was having some fun. A bad Linklater film is still better than most movies these days.