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Running Time: PG
Running Time: 101 minutes
Starring: Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Vic Morrow
Written by: Bill Lancaster
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Retail Price: $24.95
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Mono 2.0, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (17 Scenes)
Released: February 12th, 2002
Ah, sports movies. It may not be the most popular genre out there, but when you look back upon them, there have been a good deal of sports movies throughout cinema history. When you think about it, they can be divided even further: sports dramas and sports comedies. When you think about that, most of those sports dramas are based on inspiring (or not so inspiring) true stories ("Rudy," "Eight Men Out," Remember The Titans just to name a few). So then you have the sports comedies. I'd say some are hit and miss, and I'd say when it comes to the sports comedies, the most notable ones I think of deal with either baseball or hockey. Some of these sports comedies aren't that great, but there are actually a good deal of decent ones. And when I think of sports comedies, "The Bad News Bears" is the first film that comes to my mind.
"The Bad News Bears" is such a winning film, I think it's a bit hard for anyone to resist and get into it. Besides the fact it's a great family flick, it's generally funny and rather entertaining. What enhances the film even more is that it makes strong points about kids, sports and competition. The film's idea is actually pretty original when you think about it, but you may not think that seeing how many movies have ripped off this concept ("The Mighty Ducks," anyone?). So what is the plot of this fine film in case you haven't seen it? Here we go...
Walter Matthau is a former minor league player by the name of Morris Buttermaker who besides cleaning pools, is assigned to coach the Bears, a little league team. Not only do these kids suck, you also wonder why some of them are such smart asses (but I'm not complaining... it's a key point that makes the film hilarious). Knowing it, Buttermaker gets the daughter of a former girlfriend named Amanda as pitcher, and a motorkid punk named Kelly on board. However, the team that seems destined to fail keeps winning... and winning...
"The Bad News Bears" is such a fun movie. Even if the concept seems old at this point, this first installment of the "Bears trilogy" is truly the best and still holds up well after all these years. We must credit the late writer Bill Lancaster for that. The physical comedy and slapstick action this film offers is lighthearted and a joy to watch, but the dialogue can be a scream (gotta love those one-liners). Michael Ritchie (who has also recently died) directs this film with well rounded shouts and a breezy space. He captures the themes of competition, evil and baseball well throughout. Ritchie also sets some famous musical works to certain scenes, and it just feels so right.
Yet besides the writer and director, the performances give the film that extra added step. The late great Walter Matthau as Buttermaker is, in my opinion at least, one of his best performances (and Matthau's body of work will always be impressive). Even though Matthau has tackled drama before, a lot of people recognize him for his comedic performances. "The Bad News Bears" is one of his best. His delivery and timing is impeccable. Watching "The Bad News Bears" is one of the many reasons why we'll all miss Matthau. On the other side of things, the kids have great chemistry together, and Tatum O'Neal is rather enjoyable after her Oscar® winning performance in "Paper Moon" and before her downfall. So if you like sports, comedy and just looking for a good time, "The Bad News Bears" is a film that's not to be missed.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "The Bad News Bears" actually looks pretty good. Colors have decent saturation, there is an okay level of sharpness on the transfer and there is not too many little nitpicks like pieces of dirt, scratches and blemishes. Detail is also pretty good. However, I think the biggest problem with this transfer comes with old age. There is some fuzziness and a good deal of grain, but there is a lot of the halo effect and noise all throughout. That got annoying, to me at least, pretty fast. Still, I expected worse and I was surprised at the quality of this transfer.
Paramount has treated us to a 5.1 English Dolby Digital track that's obviously a complete remix, but it really feels like mono. Sure, there are surround effects such as classic baseball noises during the games and the musical score, but in the end, they feel a bit cheap and barely add up to much. Like most classic films that get remixes, and like I said right out, it's more or less mono. I will admit the atmosphere felt a little better here than in the mono track, but there's really not much here. However, on the plus side, there's no distortion and the dialgoue is clear. And if you want, the English mono mix is here for you to enjoy. English closed captions and subtitles are also included.
THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT! You got nothing!
A classic comedy and a classic sports film, "The Bad News Bears" is a winning piece of work that still holds up after all these years. Sadly, I'm not sure if Paramount realizes the value that this film holds. The transfer is better than I expected, the sound is par for the course but the lack of extras is a disappointment. Maybe interviews with the kids and their retrospective on the film would have been nice, or if planned out farther ahead of time, perhaps interviews with Michael Ritchie and Walter Matthau (who are both now deceased). In either case, if you love the film, it's worth picking up if you're sure to watch it again and again despite the price. Otherwise, it's worth a rental if you've never seen it.