The Bad News Bears (1976) DVD Review

Coming out of nowhere in 1976, The Bad News Bears performed well above any expectations, and looking back, it's hard to figure out why. While occasionally funny, and an excellent performance by Walter Matthau, there's no one in this movie to like. Everyone here is impossible to relate to.

There's the overbearing coach, who never lets a beer leave his hands or a cigar fall from his mouth. He tosses beer into kid's faces, handles them roughly, and puts them down every chance he gets. The kids are likewise ruthless, spouting off racist remarks, fighting with teammates, and otherwise being brats.

From the start, it all seems funny, simply because how unacceptable it all is. You can predict where it's going to go, but it never gets there. Instead, it takes unbelievable turns and just keeps getting worse. No one in their right mind would let their kids play for either of main teams with coaches like this.

Even as the ending approaches and the Matthau's character makes the right choices, it hardly makes up for everything he's done before that point. There are meager attempts at drama that seem awkward and out of place, mostly to give some back-story. The "villain" here isn't the councilman as the script wants him to be. The viewer knows little about him to make that call. The person the audience knows is Matthau, and he's playing a miserable man (though it's a finely acted miserable man).

The bits of comedy here are funny, but the film slows down at certain points, breaking everything into pieces with no flow at all. It's worth watching if you're a fan of little league baseball, and as a "comeback" story, it's a fair one. It's just too ridiculous at times to swallow and far too mean-spirited to be entertaining all the way through. (** out of *****)

This is a typical catalog transfer from Paramount. That means not much has been done to clean up this print, and grain is constantly annoying. Compression is never overbearing, though it is noticeable. There's little damage and only a few imperfections on the print. It's serviceable, just not something to be excited about. (**)

There's a 5.1 mix on this disc, along with a 2.0 mono track. The only advantage the 5.1 audio has over the mono is a slight edge in clarity. It's also a little louder. It's completely centered, save for brief moments with the soundtrack. There's nothing in the rear speakers. (**)

There's not even a trailer on this disc. This disc comes in a three pack along with the two sequels. It's the same disc that has been on the market for a few years. In a rare move, nothing has been added to hype up the remake. (No stars)

Maybe it's all the other "kids sports comedies" over the years that have lessened The Bad News Bears. It may have been over the top and even pushing a little bit back in 1976, and after nearly 30 years, it simply doesn't hold up. It's a case where age has not been kind, even if you can still see how it might have worked years ago.

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