Saturday, September 8, 2012
Day 147: Bad News Bears (2005)
"Baseball's hard you guys, I mean it. You can love it, but it don't always love you back. It's kind of like dating a German chick, you know?"
There have been a ton of unnecessary remakes in the history of cinema. The distinguishing feature of the unnecessary remake is that there's virtually no reason for it to exist, i.e. no interesting casting choices, nothing new to bring to the table, no new examination of the original material, etc. Some recent examples would be the remakes of Straw Dogs, Psycho, Rollerball, City of Angels, Alfie, and The Pink Panther. There is literally nothing about any of these remakes that made it worthy of anyone's time or money to do, and what's more, they all bombed (or at least weren't overwhelmingly successful).
At first glance, Richard Linklater's 2005 remake of the 1976 baseball classic Bad News Bears seems like a pretty horrible idea. One of the things that makes the original so endearing is that it was made in the era before people were falling all over themselves to remain politically correct. How could that same sensibility translate forward two decades when anything that is meant to seem remotely edgy is typically just dressed up insensitivity, particularly within the confines of a PG-13 rating? The simple answer is that it can't, which makes the whole endeavor pretty unnecessary.
The casting of Billy Bob Thornton is where any inspiration that this remake had begins and ends. In the wake of 2003's Bad Santa, there's been a desire to recapture that film's magic in a new way, but it's honestly folly. This remake even brought that film's writers, Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, on board in an ill-fated attempt to make the film seem more dangerous than it actually is, or even wants to be, to be honest. They keep almost all of the characters' names the same (Morris Buttermaker, Amanda Wurlitzer, Kelly Leak), and add in some odd ethic characters in a pathetic attempt to simultaneously add diversity while increasing the number of targets for Buttermaker's tirades.
So how much of the film isn't a total waste? Well, that depends upon two factors: how much do you like Billy Bob Thornton, and how much do you like the original story in the first place? The original story is so good that even a ham-fisted remake like this can't dampen it. It's an enjoyable enough film, although your time would be better spent watching the original if the story is all you care about. So mainly, it comes down to Thornton, which is an awful lot of responsibility for one man to bear.
For the most part, he pulls it off, playing on any goodwill you have towards him as a lovably unlikable human being. I am a huge fan of Bad Santa, and while this film is a pale imitator, it probably helped me to not hate it outright. I guess it's strange that the only reason I enjoyed this film at all is because it made me think of two other films I like so much better. Probably not reason enough for me to say that it's worth yours or anyone else's time, but also not enough for me to write it off wholesale.
Audiences greeted this film with a similar apathy upon its release, and the seven year interim since then has done nothing to increase its status as a cult classic in the vein of either the original or Bad Santa, but there are a lot worse ways to spend two hours. See the first paragraph for at least six examples of this. However, if you have the original at your disposal, there's absolutely no reason to watch this, and that, ultimately, makes this as unnecessary as those other films.