First of a trilogy of films takes an unflinching look at the underbelly of little league baseball in Southern California. Former minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker is a lazy, beer swilling swimming pool cleaner who takes money to coach the Bears, a bunch of disheveled misfits who have virtually no baseball talent. Realizing his dilemma, Coach Buttermaker brings aboard girl pitching ace Amanda Whurlizer, the daughter of a former girlfriend, and Kelly Leak, a motorcycle punk who happens to be the best player around. Brimming with confidence, the Bears look to sweep into the championship game and avenge an earlier loss to their nemesis, the Yankees.
Walter Matthau ... Coach Morris Buttermaker
Chris Barnes ... Tanner Boyle
Tatum O'Neal ... Amanda Whurlitzer
Ben Piazza ... Councilman Whitewood
Vic Morrow ... Coach Roy Turner
Erin Blunt ... Ahmad Abdul Rahim
Jackie Earle Haley ... Kelly Leak
Gary Lee Cavagnaro ... Engelberg
Joyce Van Patten ... Cleveland
Jaime Escobedo ... Jose Agilar
Scott Firestone ... Regi Tower
George Gonzales ... Miguel Agilar
Alfred Lutter III ... Ogilvie (as Alfred W. Lutter)
Brett Marx ... Jimmy Feldman
David Pollock ... Rudi Stein
"Bad News for the Athletics!" This movie should be required viewing for parents and coaches of any sport at any level. It reminds me of what is wrong about youth sports, but at the same time what makes youth sports great. There are many lessons to be learned from this movie. It is sad, but many parents and coaches continue to make the game about themselves and not about the children playing. Bad News Bears shows just how ridiculous that type of attitude regarding youth sports is.
Bad News Bears is the original kids/sports movie without the Disney cliches. There isn't a clear cut bad guy, each coach (Buttermaker and Turner) have there faults and motivation. It is also refreshing that the movie does not have the typical Hollywood ending, but instead one that is fitting for the team sponsored by Chico's Bail Bonds.
Bad News Bears is also a great reminder of life in the late 1970s, the uniforms, clothes, cars, etc. Finally, it is an entertaining movie, especially for anyone who has played little league baseball (or any youth sport). It makes me laughs every time I watch it.
I was really impressed with how well this movie has "aged." Walter Natthau plays that role of the alcoholic wash-out to perfection, and Tatum O'Neal portrays the struggle of a young girl trying to enter adolescence without losing her sense of "self" with delicacy and skill. It's a good story,with quite a bit serious to say about human nature and the understandings and misunderstandings between generations; it makes me mad that it never received the attention it deserved because it's "just" about kids. On a sadder note, I also couldn't help being impressed with how far this culture has regressed since 1976. The children's use of even mild profanity would never be permitted now in a "family film," and the wonderful scene at the end would certainly send the Thought Police running for their placards and boycotts. It's worth watching this film again just to remind ourselves that only 30 years ago children still enjoyed some autonomous space in which to grow, and the iron doors of the Nanny State had not yet completely swung closed upon them.
"The Bad News Bears" came out in 1976, the summer that I started playing little league. I know I am not breaking any new ground when I say that this film is a classic, but hopefully I can educate some of the younger viewers and posters as to how realistic this film is, in some ways.
First of all, I believe that anyone who has ever played organized youth sports has had a Tanner Boyle, Timmy Lupus and a Kelly Leek on their teams. This is just how it is, and for better or worse, it is one of the galvanizing factors that make youth leagues etch themselves indelibly into the memories of all those who have participated in them.
Second of all, kids curse. I don't know who the "nay-sayers" out there are, but they should look back into their own memories and try to figure out just when they learned to use the F-word. If you didn't learn it from your parents, you learned it from other kids. Granted, not all of us knew exactly what the words meant at that age, but we still used them. It was a small measure of rebellion at the age of seven.
When Tanner Boyle makes the comment that the team is filled with "niggers, spics, Jews and now a broad," it would be a crass, hateful comment if it had come from an adult. Yet, as a youth, Tanner gets a laugh because we all know that he doesn't really mean it, he is just repeating what he has heard at home -- not to condone what might have been said over the Boyle dinner table. The proof of this is obvious when Tanner "takes on the seventh grade," and makes a valiant attempt to preserve Timmy Lupus' honor before he gets thrown into a garbage can. Regardless of Tanner's racist remarks about the team, and his shunning of Lupus, "Lupus, why don't you sit over there? (abbr.)" he is willing to fight for those same people.
Third, (sorry for the digression), that's what parents are like. It is a truth that goes down through the ages: when it comes to their children, all adults are a-holes. When it comes time to see their children strive to excel at something, they become the obnoxious, bullying, chest-beating sh**s they have warned their children not to be. For the most part it is an extension to the children for what the parents' couldn't be in the first place, e.g. a good shortstop.
And Fourth: Losing. There is something about those pinstripes and even the moniker "Yankees" that make some of us want to do violent things to a couch. Mind you, I am not a native southerner, nor am I a Red Sox fan. I am just a man who can see the fact that pinstripes and the word "Yankees" symbolizes a corporate juggernaut that tries to annihilate the concept of fair play. For the Bears to ultilmately lose to the "Yankees" is just. They got beat. Perhaps it is an irony that this movie came out one year after the last choppers left Saigon, that defeat was in the air, so to speak.
There was still a message to this movie. A message that I have carried throughout my adult life. A message that Churchill had during the Blitz, and Giuliani had in the post 9/11 rubble. Once again, a line from Tanner Boyle: "Hey Yankees, you can take your trophy and shove it up your ass. Just wait until next year!"
This is a superb movie. I don't think it will ever become dated--not as long as little league baseball is in existence. I remember first seeing it at a drive-in when I was ten, shortly after my own little league season had finished. Walter Matthau is excellent as Buttermaker, the beer-soaked coach who takes on the unwanted task of coaching a team of misfit kids who were allowed to play in the league only after a civil action law suit was won in their favor. Tatum O'Neal shines as the team's recruited pitcher Amanda, whose mother once dated Buttermaker. A touching subplot involves the relationship between Amanda and Buttermaker which turns from distant to warm as the final game approaches. Vic Morrow gives a frighteningly good performance as the out-to-win-no-matter-what coach of the opposing team who was never happy with the fact that the Bears were allowed to play in the first place. Joyce Van Patten is also good as the butch, outspoken league supervisor.
It's the kid players that really give this movie the edge. All performances are top-notch, and director Michael Ritchie splendidly keeps the focus mostly on them and their feelings about the whole ordeal. Stand-outs include Jackie Earl Haley as the heroic Kelly Leak and Chris Barnes as shortstop Tanner Boyle. This film should be a warning to relentless adults who try to achieve stardom on the backs of their children, be it on the baseball field or on the ballet floor.
* When Coach Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is getting into his car after leaving Councilman Whitewood's office, there's a sign in the background for a production of "Hello, Dolly!". Matthau played Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly! (1969).
* Throughout the film, Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is constantly drinking beer, yet he is never seen drinking the same brand. Buttermaker is seen at various times in the film drinking Budweiser, Miller High Life, Schlitz "Kingers", Pabst Blue Ribbon, and original Coors.
* Kristy McNichol was originally offered the role of Amanda; after successfully auditioning, the producers told her when they would begin filming and to start preparing, but McNichol says over one weekend they changed their minds and she got the disappointing call they were giving the role to Tatum O'Neal.
* Bill Lancaster's screenplay was based on his experiences with his father, Burt Lancaster. Buttermaker was based on Burt, who was known for his grumpiness and the character of Amanda was based on himself. Burt Lanacster would later be cast as an aged version of early 20th Century ballplayer, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham in Field of Dreams (1989).
* The Bears were the only team in the league whose nickname and colors were not borrowed from a major league baseball team. This helped reinforce their status as misfits and underdogs.
* Jodie Foster was cast at one point as Amanda, but dropped out for Taxi Driver (1976).
* Tanner uses the word crud (or cruddy) 11 times during the course of the film.
SPOILER: In an alternate ending, Kelly is safe at home instead of out. Test audiences preferred the ending with him out, as it would've been too much of a happy ending for the underdog Bears.