The Bad News Bears (1976)


Oscar-winning “70s everyman” Walter Matthau (The Odd Couple) is Morris Buttermaker, an alcoholic former minor league baseball player tasked with coaching the worst little league team in all of Southern California, The Bears.

A comedy with a lot of laughs. But it’s something more, something deeper, than what it first appears to be. It’s an unblinking, scathing look at competition in American society.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Comprised of such talents as a near-sighted pitcher, a disinterested catcher, and a foul-mouthed shortstop, The Bears need more than a little help and it comes in the form of Amanda Whurlizer (gasp, a girl!) played by Tatum O’Neal (fresh off her Oscar-win for Paper Moon). With a sharp tongue and top-notch pitching skills, she, along with power-hitting juvenile delinquent Kelly Leak (future Oscar-nominee Jackie Earl Haley, Little Children), helps the unlikely bunch get into the playoffs, where The Bears will finally have the chance to prove what they’re made of! All wrapped up in the politics and community of baseball, the kids in The Bad News Bears act like adults while the adults act like kids and they all have a lot of growing up to do. Featuring a hilariously unsentimental, undeniably salty screenplay by Bill Lancaster (son of Burt Lancaster, and future screenwriter of John Carpenter’s The Thing), a stellar cast featuring some of the most realistic, non-“Cute Hollywood” kids in movie history, and insightful direction by acclaimed filmmaker Michael Ritchie (Downhill Racer; Fletch),  The Bad News Bears was a surprise box-office hit, spawning two sequels, a TV series, and a remake by Richard Linklater, and stands today as a surprisingly tough-minded satire of America’s “win at all costs” mentality. Play Ball! (Dir. by Michael Ritchie, 1976, USA, 102 mins., Rated PG)