Bad News Bears Studio: Paramount Home Video Year: 2005 (2005 Release) Rated: PG 13 Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays Audio: English DD 5.1/ 2.0; French DD 5.1mono Subtitles: English; Spanish Time: 113 minutes Disc Type: DL/ DVD-9 I must admit, it’s been years since I saw the original “Bad News Bears”. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember seeing the original picture at all. So when this new version popped up on my door step last week, I figured it was finally time to see what my childhood friends had talked about for years. But is a remake of a beloved picture the way to go? At first I said yes, in order to remain objective about this new version, but then I wound up liking the new one so much, I had to go back and see the original! Billy Bob Thorton plays Morris “The Blade” Buttermaker, a washed up major league ball player who has taken to walking rats out of basements as opposed to walking batters. Buttermaker agrees to coach a misfit group of kids who were allowed to play apparently due to an injunction levied by the park district. No one wants these kids to play, so they wind up getting the coach who really doesn’t want to play either. Buttermaker begins, half-heartedly, to show these kids the fundamentals of the game in between whiskey and beers. His type of training includes beaning the poor little buggers with the baseball to help them build character. He also takes them on rat catching jobs to trap the mangy varmints. In Buttermaker’s opinion, these are all teambuilding exercises. Once the first game actually begins, the Bears get slaughtered to the point Buttermaker forfeits the game. This at least allows Buttermaker some incentive to help out these kids. While he is trying to do so, he is taunted by Roy Bollock (played by Greg Kinnear), a high-speed dad who coaches the number 1 team, the Yankees. Over the course of the picture, Buttermaker learns how to deal with the kids and he teaches them enough baseball in the process that they begin to win games. He also enlists his daughter as a pitcher and a James Dean type kid as a star hitter in separate subplots. The picture builds to the championship game, leaving the teams with an unexpected, and great, conclusion. The main question I had about the new version of “The Bad News Bears” was, “Why?” The original from 1976 is considered a modern classic is some arenas and it does not appear to need much sprucing up for this day and age. In watching both releases, I am struck at how much is really similar between the two, and in some cases, you have almost shot for shot scenes. Richard Linklater, the director, has been known for his indie type pictures in the past, including “School of Rock” and “Dazed and Confused”, so a remake was out of the ordinary for him. As he says in the commentary, he knew someone would make it eventually, and he wanted it to be someone who respected the original like he did. And he does. The new version retains all of the wise ass kids that we grew to love (or hate) in the original, but in a more culturally friendly composition. Each kid still smarts off to the authority figures, but it only enhances exactly how kids tend to act. Thorton changes little from Walter Matthau’s original Buttermaker except to make him a little funnier (due in part to the screenplay, too), thus endearing him to the audience more than Matthau did. I was even very happy to find the screenwriter of the 1976 version, Bill Lancaster, also worked on the current version. The main difference I saw was this was a more sexed up version: Buttermaker and the kids go to Hooters for after game meals, they’re sponsored by a strip club, and the Bears cheerleaders are the dancers from the aforementioned club. While not necessarily a bad thing, I tend to question why exactly Linklater made these changes/ additions when they serve no real story purpose but to differentiate the two versions. Video: The anamorphically enhanced DVD is correctly framed at 1.85:1. The picture exhibits good color fidelity with accurate and rich flesh tones. This becomes apparent when you have all the culturally diverse group of kids standing together and you can see the differences in these tones. Color variations stand out nicely on the grass baseball field and in the market place scenes with Buttermaker’s daughter. Clothing details are also represented very well, again, in the market scenes and in the player’s uniforms. Black levels are good and deep and show good detail. Edge enhancement is noticeable but not overbearing. No compression artifacts were observed. The layer split is at 1:00:25. Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack shows good fidelity throughout the presentation. Voices are accurate and natural. There is good use of the front channels, and that is where a majority of the information comes from. Surrounds are used to provide ambience to the ball field and the bar scenes, as well as the Bloodfart concert scene. Bass effects are minimal and they could be used to greater effect. This film also ports over some of the music from the original release for the soundtrack. Bonus material: Feature length director’s commentary with Linklater and screenplay writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. There is not a lot of revelatory information in this commentary, but a little more in depth about the participant’s thoughts towards the original and the production of the current version. It would have been great to have Bill Lancaster in this as well. At Bat with the Bears (11:32): This appears to be the EPK, with interviews with the cast and crew. Highlights: Linklater got enthused when Thorton was attached! Bullock becomes a real character! You get the idea. Writing the Bad News Bears(9:38): This segment contains interviews with screenwriters Ficarra and Requa who pretty much spend nine and a half minutes defending the remake. They also note some of the changes they made to this version. Scouting for the Big Leagues (10:17): This segment features video auditions of the kids who eventually got the roles of the Bears. Linklater and Joseph Middleton (casting director) comment on the casting, and there are interviews with the kids with about their roles. Spring Training (4:39): Linklater discusses the technical aspect of the film (baseball basics) and the training the crew went through to prepare the kids. Deleted scenes: There are six deleted scenes with optional director and co-screenplay writer commentary. Scenes include: Pay Off (1:29), Don't Trust Whitey (1:13), Playing Catch- Take 1 (2:45), Coach & Pitcher Talk (:54), Teasing the Pitcher (1:50), Playing Football (:28). None of the scenes contribute anything new or different to the overall story. The extras are not anamorphic. Outtakes: There are three outtakes with optional director and co-screenplay writer’s commentary. Outtakes include: International Superstar Billy Bob (:18), Lineup (:26) and Butterfingers (:37). There is nothing too exciting here. Video Baseball Cards: These thirteen "cards" spotlight the cast members, and when you select their card, they do a quick intro, the card flips over and you can read background on the actor. Nice touch! Theatrical trailer (1:38) Conclusions: I’m pretty happy my first experience (at least that I remember) with “The Bad News Bears” was this new version. Linklater has done a fine job of retaining the spirit and irreverence of the original, and Billy Bob Thorton takes Buttermaker on a different journey, one that allows for more humor in the performance. The great cast of kids makes the branch between the two versions almost seamless (where in the hell did they find another Tanner?). In these days where kiddie humor is benchmarked with “South Park”, I’m very glad to see the Bad News Bears back on deck.