The Bad News Bears ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Really, the first thought conjured by The Bad News Bears is how politically incorrect it was, but somehow remembering that doesn't much blunt the effect of actually re-watching it. This was my first viewing of it in eight years, and throughout the movie I kept finding myself amazed at what was accepted in 1976. I don't even know that you could get a PG-13 rating for this film as it exists today, what with kids smoking and being doused with beer and slinging slurs of every variety.

It's the kind of movie that can cause a person to check out after about ten minutes, knowing that instead of ever apologizing, that it will just keep going in as outrageous a direction as it can. Buried under the offenses, though, is an underdog story of camaraderie that really is endearing and identifiable on a seemingly universal level. Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) isn't a bad guy, necessarily. There are a few scenes in which he even gets to be the good guy, such as talking Ahmad (Erin Blunt) out of the tree.

Like Adventures in Babysitting, which I just re-watched a few nights ago, The Bad News Bears is one of those movies that continues to entertain, despite also making me cringe from start to its brilliant finish. I have to give the film credit for its finale. Typically, sports movies are so obvious and predictable that the game play footage is the most boring part - especially at the end of the movie, where we know to anticipate false starts before inevitable triumph. The championship game, though, has an unpredictable ebb and flow. It all works because we like these kids enough to want them to win, but we've seen them screw up enough to actually question whether they will.

The confrontation between Coach Roy Turner (Vic Morrow) and his son, pitcher Joey Turner (Brandon Cruz) over the latter's throw at the head of Bears batter Mike Engelberg (Gary Lee Cavagnaro). It's a very complex scene, because we do empathize with Joey's mounting frustration with his overbearing father, but at the same time, Roy is entirely justified in being furious at his son throwing at another kid's head. If not for Roy hitting Joey, I'd actually take his side in the matter outright.

Roy's wife makes the argument that Joey threw at Engelberg because he was following the example set by Roy, and maybe there's something to that. But Roy's instructions - don't give the kid who just nearly took you out of the park anything to hit - are Baseball 101 and it's hard to believe that a kid on as competitive a team as Roy's would actually give into ego in the championship game over such fundamentals. Of course, we also see what's taking place in the Bears dugout, with Buttermaker devolving into a cutthroat tyrant so maybe Joey shouldn't be held to any higher standard.

It's complicated.

The Bad News Bears Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#517/1597)

The Bad News Bears > The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad --> #517
The Bad News Bears < Far and Away --> #517
The Bad News Bears > My Fellow Americans --> #517
The Bad News Bears > Dressed to Kill --> #499
The Bad News Bears > Cutlass --> #449
The Bad News Bears > The Battleship Potemkin --> #424
The Bad News Bears > Thriller --> #412
The Bad News Bears > The Evil Dead (1981) --> #405
The Bad News Bears < Ben-Hur --> #405
The Bad News Bears > Planet of the Apes (2001) --> #403

The Bad News Bears was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #403/1597