Paramount Studios presents
The Bad News Bears (1976)
Coach Buttermaker: What if he tries something?Amanda: I'll take care of it.Coach Buttermaker: Rolling Stones, 11 years old.Amanda: I know an 11-year-old girl who is already on the pill.Coach Buttermaker: Don't ever say that word again.Amanda: Jesus, who do you think you are?Coach Buttermaker: The manager, that's who!Amanda: Big wow!- Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal
Stars: Tatum O'Neal, Walter Matthau
Other Stars: Vic Morrow
Director: Michael Ritchie
MPAA Rating: PG for (language)
Run Time: 01h:42m:00s
Release Date: 2002-02-12
DVD ReviewThe Bad News Bears certainly didn't originate the sports comedy, but it did perfect one of its most lasting forms. This is the first truly successful, lasting example of the "goofy team of misfits pulls together under a troubled coach, teaching him as much about life as he does them about sports." I'm quite fond of this particular screenwriting staple, but for some reason, I'd not seen The Bad News Bears prior to this review. I tell you what: it's an excellent example of the form, striking a perfect balance between the inane sports stuff and the emotional subplots.Morris Buttermaker (Matthau) is a washed-up former ballplayer, cleaning pools for a living, when he gets an offer to coach a little league team for some extra cash. Of course, this is the worst team in the league, full of misfits who can barely field, a pitcher who can't throw, and outfielders with asthma. The young actors bring a sense of enthusiasm to their roles that makes up for their unpolished acting, and it's funny to look at these characters and realize that the same stereotypes have carried over to the sports films of today (particularly the fat catcher, who is always eating, because that's funny). The team's lack of talent isn't aided by Buttermaker's inept coaching. He's more apt to drink beer in the dugout than help the kids. However, after the team's first humiliating loss, his love of baseball is reawakened, and he begins to work with the kids, but they still need real talent. He recruits his former girlfriend's daughter Amanda (O'Neal) as the new pitcher, and a local bad boy as an outfielder. Gee, do you think the Bears will make it to the big game? Director Michael Ritchie, who had previously skewered beauty pageants with Smile, brings his somewhat tongue-in-cheek perspective to the sports genre here. The "inspirational" elements are all in place, but are undercut by the constant use of foul language by the kids (which is still funny, despite losing some of its shock value in the last quarter-century), undermining the usual concept of the underdog team as the "good kids" and, moreover, the focus on the adult's minor abuse of the kids in their quest to win games. Even Buttermaker crosses the line a few times, and the film was perhaps the first "inspirational" comedy to really attack those parents who put enormous pressure on their kids to win.Matthau is his usual grouchy self, which works for the role, and Tatum O'Neal shows the same poise and preternatural maturity as she did in her award-winning performance in Paper Moon. She's not a natural kid, oddly enough, and seems to have to do more "acting" to seem natural, which she never accomplishes as well as her amateur teammates. I was a big Mighty Ducks fan going into this, and I really can't believe how many plot points were copied verbatim from this film. As is usually the case, though, the original is better. The Bad News Bears is surprisingly charming family entertainment, which is good news for DVD fans.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Taking questions of age into account, this is actually a pretty good-looking disc. The first thing you'll notice is some excessive grain, especially in any scene with a bright blue sky. There's some intermittent damage to the print as well, but nothing major. I haven't seen the film on any other format, so I don't know how it is supposed to look, but to my eyes, the image is overly dark, with the transfer so dim in many places that the kids faces become obscured beneath their baseball caps. On the plus side, artifacting, aliasing, and edge enhancement aren't a problem at all, and the black level is much better than you'd see on broadcast or VHS versions of the film.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: In additional to the original mono, Paramount has included a largely unnecessary 5.1 remix track. For purists, the mono sounds pretty good, with a nice balance between the score and dialogue and a decent amount of fidelity to strengthen the sound (though dialogue does, at times, sound a bit harsh). The remix anchors the dialogue in the center (where it sounds a bit better supported), while mixing the music and ambient sounds to the mains, though the front soundstage still seems very narrow. I suppose the 5.1 mix is preferable in that it opens things up a bit, but the mono is good, too.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Review: Even for a barebones disc, this is pretty bare. Nothing is included at all in the way of extras. There isn't even support for multiple languages. Not that every disc has to be a special edition (this one sure isn't). I suppose rights issues barred the inclusion of the trailer, which seems to be the case with a lot of these older movies.
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsThe progenitor of The Mighty Ducks, The Big Green, and the like, The Bad News Bears actually holds up pretty well after 26 years. The plot is familiar, if only because it was aped by so many that followed it, but it's better done than most as well. The DVD is devoid of bells and whistles, but at least the video and audio quality is good. Families should get a kick out of it, but watch out for the potty mouths on these kids. I tell ya, someone needs to slap them upside their heads with a thesaurus.
Joel Cunningham 2002-02-11