The Bad News Bears

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The Bad News Bears
Bad news bears 1976 movie poster.jpg
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Produced by Stanley R. Jaffe
Written by Bill Lancaster
Starring Walter Matthau
Tatum O'Neal
Chris Barnes
Vic Morrow
Jackie Earle Haley
Joyce Van Patten
Quinn Smith
Music by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography John A. Alonzo
Editing by Richard A. Harris
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates April 7, 1976
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Spanish
Budget $9 million[1]
Box office $42,349,782[2]

The Bad News Bears is a 1976 comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie. It stars Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal. The film was followed by two sequels, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training in 1977 and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan in 1978, a short-lived 1979–80 CBS television series, and a 2005 remake titled Bad News Bears.

The original screenplay was written by Bill Lancaster. Notable was the score by Jerry Fielding, which is an adaptation of the principal themes of Carmen.

Plot[edit]

Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), a former minor-league baseball player and an alcoholic who cleans swimming pools, is recruited by a city councilman and attorney who filed a lawsuit against a competitive Southern California Little League, which excluded the least athletically skilled children (including his son) from playing. To settle the lawsuit, the league agrees to add an additional team—the Bears—which is composed of the worst players.

Buttermaker becomes coach of the unlikely team. It includes (among others) a near-sighted pitcher, an overweight catcher, a foul-mouthed shortstop with a Napoleon complex, an outfielder who dreams of emulating his idol Hank Aaron, two non-English-speaking Mexican immigrants, a withdrawn (and bullied) boy named Timmy Lupus, and a motley collection of other "talent". Shunned by the more competitive teams (and competitive parents), the Bears are outsiders, sponsored by Chico's Bail Bonds. In their opening game, they do not even record an out, giving up 26 runs before Buttermaker forfeits the game.

Realizing the team is nearly hopeless, he recruits a couple of unlikely prospects: First up is sharp-tongued Amanda Whurlizer (Tatum O'Neal), a skilled pitcher (trained by Buttermaker when she was younger) who is the 12-year-old daughter of one of Buttermaker's ex-girlfriends. She now peddles maps to movie-star homes. Amanda tries to convince Buttermaker that she has given up baseball, but then she reveals that she had been practicing "on the sly". Amanda makes a number of outlandish demands (such as imported jeans, modeling school, ballet lessons, etc.) as conditions for joining the team. Buttermaker asks, "Who do you think you are, Catfish Hunter?" Amanda responds, "Who's he?"

Rounding out the team, Buttermaker recruits the "best athlete in the area", who also happens to be a cigarette-smoking, loan-sharking, Harley-Davidson-riding troublemaker, Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley). No one else on the team is pleased at first with the new additions, but with Whurlizer and Leak on board, the Bears gain confidence and begin winning.

They make it to the league's championship game opposite the top-notch Yankees, who are coached by aggressive, competitive Roy Turner (Vic Morrow). As the game progresses, tensions are ratcheted up as Buttermaker and Turner engage in shouting matches, directing their players to become increasingly more ruthless and competitive, going as far as fighting, spiking on a slide, or making a batter get hit by a pitched ball on purpose. Buttermaker forces Amanda to keep pitching, even though her arm hurts.

The turnaround point of the game comes after a heated exchange between Turner's son (and Yankees pitcher) Joey (Brandon Cruz) and the Bears' catcher Engelberg (Gary Lee Cavagnaro), who is at-bat. Turner orders his son to walk Engelberg, the only Bears hitter he hasn't been able to overcome. Engleberg gloats, so Joey intentionally throws a wild beanball, nearly striking Engelberg in the head. A horrified Turner goes to the mound and slaps his son. On the next pitch, Engelberg hits a routine ground ball back to Joey, who exacts revenge against his father by holding the ball until Engelberg circles the bases for an inside-the-park home run. Joey then drops the ball at his father's feet and leaves the game with his mother.

Buttermaker suddenly realizes that he has become as competitive as Turner, a man he can't stand. He relents and lets Amanda come out of the game and puts benchwarmers on the field, thus giving every kid a chance to play. The substitute Bears make errors and the team falls far behind on the scoreboard. In spite of this, the Bears rally in their final inning, loading the bases with smart tactics (two walks and a bunt). It brings Kelly Leak to bat with a chance to be a hero.

Turner decides not to let Kelly hit the ball. He orders another intentional walk, even though it will cost the Yankees a run. Buttermaker mocks the opposing manager, who just smirks. So, against all logic, Buttermaker gives a sign to Kelly to swing away. Kelly lunges at a far-outside pitch and belts the ball to the wall. Three runners score ahead of Kelly, who races toward home plate with the game-tying run, only to be called out by the umpire on a very close play. The game is over.

Having narrowly lost 7 to 6, Buttermaker treats his underage players to free rein of his beer cooler. Although they did not win the championship, they have the satisfaction of having come a long way.

The condescending Yankees congratulate the Bears telling them that although they are still not that good, they have "guts." Tanner, the shortstop, replies by telling the Yankees where they can put their trophy. The Bears cheer and Timmy Lupus overcomes his chronic shyness enough to yell "Wait 'til next year!", after which the Bears spray beers all over each other. The celebration makes it look as if they won the game.

Cast[edit]

Adults
Morris Buttermaker Walter Matthau Coach of the Bears: A drunken, loud, ex-professional baseball pitcher and part-time pool cleaner, who drives a yellow Cadillac convertible; the protagonist
Roy Turner Vic Morrow Coach of the Yankees and the antagonist
Cleveland Joyce Van Patten League manager
Bob Whitewood Ben Piazza City councilman and lawyer who sued the league to allow the Bears (in particular, his son) to play. He convinces (and pays) Buttermaker to coach the team.
Kids
Regi Tower Scott Firestone Fairly quiet red-headed third baseman whose dad vocally attends practices and games. Also plays first base. Wears number 1.
Toby Whitewood David Stambaugh An unassuming boy who plays first base. He knows about the other players' personalities and at times speaks for the team. Son of councilman Bob Whitewood, who secretly paid Buttermaker to coach the team. Wears number 2.
Kelly Leak Jackie Earle Haley Local troublemaker who smokes and rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Also the best athlete in the neighborhood. He alternates between left and center field and has a crush on Amanda. Wears number 3.
Timmy Lupus Quinn Smith A "booger-eating spaz;" plays right field and is considered to be the worst player on the team, but surprises everyone in the final game by making a key play to keep the Bears in the game. He is the most quiet and shy player, but showed the odd ability to properly prepare a martini for Coach Buttermaker while the team was assisting the coach with pool cleaning. Wears number 4.
Mike Engelberg Gary Lee Cavagnaro An overweight boy who plays catcher; A great hitter, he frequently teases Tanner about his size, his jabs at rival pitcher Joey Turner ignite a rivalry. Wears number 5.
Jose Aguilar Jaime Escobedo Miguel's older brother who plays second base; doesn't speak English. Wears number 6.
Miguel Aguilar George Gonzales Jose's younger brother; mostly plays right field. He doesn't speak English either; so short that the strike zone is non-existent. Wears number 7.
Jimmy Feldman Brett Marx Fairly quiet third baseman with curly blond hair. Wears number 8.
Alfred Ogilvie Alfred W. Lutter A bookworm who memorizes baseball statistics. He's mostly a benchwarmer who assists the coach with defensive strategy. A backup outfielder/first baseman, but reluctant to play as he feels he's one of the worst players on the team. Wears number 9.
Rudi Stein David Pollock Nervous relief pitcher with glasses who is a terrible hitter; asked by Coach Buttermaker to purposely get hit by pitches in order to get on base. Also a backup outfielder. Wears number 10.
Amanda Whurlizer Tatum O'Neal 12-year-old pitcher who feels insecure about her tomboy image. She is proven to be a good pitcher. Her mother is Buttermaker's ex-girlfriend. Wears number 11.
Tanner Boyle Chris Barnes Short-tempered shortstop with a Napoleon complex; after suffering a horrible loss on their first game, he picks a fight with the entire seventh grade from his school (and loses). He tends to curse more than the others, and often insults and bullies Timmy. Wears number 12.
Ahmad Abdul-Rahim Erin Blunt An African-American Muslim who plays in the outfield and adores Hank Aaron; strips off his uniform in shame after committing errors, but is convinced to return to the team by Buttermaker. Wears number 44 in honor of his hero.
Joey Turner Brandon Cruz The star pitcher for the Yankees (wears number 2 for that team). Coach Roy Turner's son. He has a rivalry with Engleberg and regularly bullies Tanner and Timmy. Allows Engleberg an inside-the-park home run, then quits the team after Roy slaps him in anger over a wild pitch.

Discussing her relationship with co-star Walter Matthau on MLB Network’s “Costas at the Movies” in 2013, Tatum O’Neal described a visit Matthau paid to her in the hospital following a car accident a few years later: “He said, ‘Kid, I just had to come in and see that you were all right.’ I can’t say that was true for every actor I’ve worked with…It was a pretty special moment for me, one that I will never forget.”

Production[edit]

The Bad News Bears was filmed in and around Los Angeles, primarily in the San Fernando Valley. The field where they played is in Mason Park on Mason Avenue in Chatsworth. In the film, the Bears were sponsored by an actual company, "Chico's Bail Bonds". One scene was filmed in the council chamber at Los Angeles City Hall.

The film was notable in its time for the amount of vulgarity (including profanity and ethnic slurs) placed into the mouths of the various child actors who played the principal roles (specifically, a memorable Tanner Boyle, played by Chris Barnes, quoted as calling his teammates en masse "a bunch of Jews, spics, niggers, pansies, and a booger-eating moron"). Most of the questionable dialogue was used for comic effect. A true product of the mid-70s, it includes a scene that would most likely no longer be allowed in a PG-rated film today: an inebriated Buttermaker drives the players, who are not wearing seatbelts, in an open-top convertible, with a broken windshield.

Reaction[edit]

In his 1976 review, critic Roger Ebert called the film "an unblinking, scathing look at competition in American society".[3]

Speaking about the popularity of the movie and her character on MLB Network’s Costas at the Movies in 2013, Tatum O’Neal said, "It’s so funny because I have a group of 48-year-old men, like Vince Vaughn…who have posters of 'Bad News Bears,' Jason Patric, Quentin Tarantino. There’s a group of people, mostly men, who think that character of Amanda Whurlitzer is the most appealing little girl at that age…It must be a toughness with a little femininity."

The film inspired two sequels, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, a TV series, and a 2005 remake.

Walter Matthau was nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy. The screenplay by Bill Lancaster, son of actor Burt Lancaster, was winner of a Writers Guild of America award.

Saturday Night Live did a parody of the film with Matthau as the guest host called The Bad News Bees with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and the rest in their recurring "bee" costumes. This subtly dealt with masturbation which was referred to as "buzzing-off".

American Film Institute

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Box Office Information for The Bad News Bears. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. ^ "The Bad News Bears, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  3. ^ Review, The Bad News Bears, Chicago Sun-Times, April 13, 1976

External links[edit]