Billy Bob Thornton sculpts profanity with a mastery that rivals Michelangelo’s gift for marble. As with "Bad Santa," Thornton, with the help of screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, manages to carve dazzlingly ornate and finely wrought curses that fill a listener with awe. It’s too bad these delightful vulgarities are in a movie that’s nominally meant for kids.Thornton’s virtuoso performance of a baseball has-been (or should that be never was) is the only reason to plunk down hard earned bucks for this surprisingly lifeless remake of "The Bad News Bears."
The new film has the word "the" deleted from the title, which is a strange omen for how generic and rote the new film feels. The 1976 movie is "The Bad News Bears;" the other movie is simply another movie about a worst to first little league team.
Thornton’s Morris Buttermaker, an exterminator, finds himself taking a few extra bucks to supervise a team full of players who’ve been rejected by all the other teams in the league. One of his players is even in a wheelchair.
Gradually with the help his rocket-armed former stepdaughter (Sammi Kane Kraft) and a hoodlum (Jeffrey Davies) with a powerful swing, the team improves.
But it’s curiously hard to care.
It’s difficult to believe this remake was helmed by Richard Linklater, because “Bad News Bears” has none of the creativity, wit or even craftsmanship he demonstrated in “Waking Life,” “Before Sunset” or “The School of Rock.”
He borrows liberally from the first film, but the stench of duplication permeates the film. In the 1976 incarnation of the story, Michael Ritchie’s use of Bizet’s opera Carmen was an intriguing way to mirror the action on the field. Here, the hip-hop flavored re-recordings seem more like an act of obligation than inspiration.
Linklater seems to sense that this venture is a lost cause and has chosen to coast. Visually, it’s about the flattest, least interesting film he’s ever made.
Whereas “The School of Rock” featured an astonishing roster of talented child actors, the line up here is less inspiring than a match up between the Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals.
For the most part, they simply settle for aping the kids from the first movie and have difficulty simply delivering lines. Worse, the adult characters played by Greg Kinnear and Marcia Gay Harden wilt in Thornton’s spotlight.
Ficarra and Requa seem to have lost their creative spark after thinking of hilariously vulgar things for Thornton to utter (“You guys swing like Hellen Keller at a piñata party.”). For the most part, original screenwriter Bill Lancaster’s storyline is kept intact. As a result, the new film’s obvious conclusion seems more…obvious.This new film screams for chapter select on DVD. If the filmmakers can isolate the scenes of Thornton cursing or exterminating rats, they might have at least a base hit on their hands.