Friday, December 29, 2006

Bad News Bears (1976)

I recently re-watched, "The Bad News Bears," written by Bill Lancaster, starring Walter Matthau. It is an astonishing film, brilliantly crafted. I have no interest in seeing the remake. It's like going to a museum to see a copy of the Mona Lisa -- why would I do that?

Though there are many characters in the Bad News Bears story, they are all unique and memorable, each having a distinct voice, and the plot is clear with great propulsion. For a screenwriter, this is quite a feat -- the late Bill Lancaster (actor Burt Lancasters's son) was a great talent. Kudos to the director and editor as well. Walter Matthau was terrific as the drunken coach, bribed into coaching a team of misfit kids.I like the honestly in which kids are portrayed in this movie. They swear. Some are bigots. Some have bad attitudes. They aren't cute to other kids; they're scary. One of the kids smoked! Nowadays, political correctness, while certainly positive for society in many ways, prevents an honest portrayal of how people, especially kids, really are, compromising artistic integrity. Adults are also frightening to kids, having power over them that they don't have with other adults. No wonder so many weak sadistic people are attracted to the teaching profession or kids' coaching.

The story develops in a natural unforced way with great honesty and realism, remaining true to its characters, with many layers of meaning. Like film classics, "The Hustler" (starring Paul Newman) and "Rocky I" (starring Sylvester Stallone), it is a sports film focused on its characters and the game on one level, yet on another level is a metaphor for life itself. This film was a huge surprise hit in 1976.

It is both a sports movie and a kids film (though PG due to using the language kids actually speak), yet is much more, with much to offer a wider audience. The Bad News Bears is a wonderful movie (and the fact that I'm not particularly into baseball doesn't weaken my appreciation of it).

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