Bad News Bears Richard Linklater

Bad News Bears Richard Linklater
I normally don't expect miracles from remakes of aging kid pix, but this surprisingly gripping retread of the 1976 Walter Matthau vehicle does the trick quite nicely.

Billy Bob Thornton is a drunken ex-ballplayer enlisted to coach a team of recalcitrant zeroes to little league glory; he's not crazy about them, they outwardly despise him, and that initially adds up to a match made in hell. But once he shakes off his cynical apathy, he coaches in earnest, grabs a couple of ringers and turns the sinking ship around to face a championship team coached by bourgie poser Greg Kinnear.

The usual pro-loser sentiment is here in surfeit, but the switch is that the filmmakers seem to genuinely mean it: not only has director Richard Linklater decided to commit to the dark implications of a bitter drunk coaching a bunch of pre-pubescent, but the writers come up with some sly interplay between the overtly anti-PC humour and a serious approach to the feelings of the frustrated, ethnically-mixed players. Just when you think you know where it's going, Linklater and company throw a curveball, making you laugh at stuff you never expected to and care about things lesser directors would blow off as irrelevant.

To be sure, worship for any movie with post-game parties at Hooters is pushing it, but it's nevertheless a solid picture that doesn't insult your intelligence and doesn't treat anyone as if they were unworthy of respect. And it single-handedly demolishes the accepted wisdom that comedy has to be without content, doing double duty as a breezy laugher and an exploration of what baseball's mindless pieties would mean if somebody actually lived up to them. (Paramount)