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Film / The Bad News Bears

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"First base, second base, third base, home!
Around them bases we shall roam!"

The Bad News Bears is a 1976 comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie.

Walter Matthau stars as Morris Buttermaker, an alcoholic former minor-league baseball player who becomes the coach of the Bears, a cellar-dwelling Little League baseball team with poor playing skills and little hope of ever winning. To bolster the team's abilities, he recruits Amanda Wurlitzer (Tatum O'Neal), a skilled pitcher who happens to be the eleven-year-old daughter of one of Buttermaker's former girlfriends, and Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley), the local cigarette-smoking troublemaker. And, miraculously, the notoriously chronic underdogs start winning under Buttermaker's careful coaching. Now all that lies between them and victory is the championship game...

The film was followed by two sequels, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977) and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978), and a short-lived 1979-80 CBS television series, none of which were able to duplicate the success of the original. Remade in 2005 as Bad News Bears, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Billy Bob Thornton as Buttermaker.


Not to be confused with Bears Are Bad News.

This movie, and its two sequels, contain examples of:

  • Animated Credits Opening: The Bad News Bears Go to Japan has one. Fittingly, it was animated in Japan at Group TAC.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Tanner drops this gem when Amanda joins the team:
    Tanner: Jews, spics, niggers, and now a girl?
    Amanda: Grab a bat, punk!
  • The Bet: Amanda tries to get Kelly to join the team by playing air hockey against him at an arcade. But she loses, so instead she has to go out on a date with him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Bears wind up losing the championship game on the last play. However, Buttermaker is still proud of them for improving so much during the season, they earned some grudging respect from the Yankees, and the team is ready to come back and win it all next season. Buttermaker also seems to have warmed up to his role as a father figure to Amanda, and the two are seen proudly holding hands in the team photo over the credits.
    • It might not even count as Bittersweet as the Bears players are all defiant about their losing, knowing they did so for all the right reasons.
      Tanner: Hey Yankees... you can take your apology and your trophy and shove 'em straight up your ass!
      Timmy: And another thing, just wait till next year!
  • Advertisement:
  • Champions on the Inside
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover shows Amanda standing on a box while talking to Buttermaker. Take a wild guess as to whether a scene like that appears in the actual movie.
  • Down to the Last Play: This was perhaps the first underdog movie to have the protagonist team not win.
  • Downer Ending: Subverted, despite the Bears losing.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Buttermaker the little-league coach.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Engelberg.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In the first film, Amanda tries to invoke this on Kelly. But it backfires.
    Amanda: Whatcha got against baseball anyway?
    Kelly: The baseball you guys play is for faggots and old farts who don't have anything better to do with themselves.
    Amanda: Well, you must like those kind of guys. You sure do hang around the field often enough.
    Kelly: There's a nice ass on the field. That's why I hang around.
    Amanda: (Death Glare)
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Coach Buttermaker is a grouchy, alcoholic slob, but he really does care for the kids more than he lets on, and part of why the team loses in the end was because he chose to bench his best players in the final inning so the other kids could get a chance to play. When he very harshly rejects Amanda's offer to help him patch things up with her mom, he's also left crying afterward, because he understands how badly he just screwed up.
    • Tanner may be a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered, racist, and sexist little shit, but he won't let anyone [else] pick on his teammates, and is very quick to defend them. Especially when Lupus gets bullied by members of a rival team.
      Timmy: Thanks, no one ever stood up for me before.
      Tanner: Well, Lupus, if you wiped your nose once in a while, people wouldn't give you so much crud all the time.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Roy Turner might have gone too far by hitting his son Joey; however, he was right to be mad at Joey for intentionally trying to hit Engelberg in the head with a baseball, which could have seriously hurt him had the ball actually struck him in the head. There is also the legal ramifications Roy could have faced.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Immediately after getting smacked by his father on the mound, Joey fields a soft grounder from Engelberg, and holds the ball, permitting Engelberg to score an inside-the-park home run. He then walks off the mound, drops the ball at Roy's feet, and leaves with his mother. Although the Yankees won in the end, there was little for Roy personally to be proud of.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Buttermaker is variously referred to with such derisive nicknames as "Butterworth", "Buttercrud", and, perhaps most accurately, "Boilermaker".
  • Miles Gloriosus: Carmen in the second film. He got better, though.
  • Mouthy Kid: Many of the kids have their moments, but Tanner loves throwing around racial epithets.
  • The Napoleon: Tanner.
  • Only Sane Man: Kelly.
  • Opposing Sports Team: The Yankees.
  • Ordered to Cheat: Buttermaker orders his batter to lean into the pitch so he'd get hit, to get a walk. The player is against the idea, but does it anyway. Twice.
  • Pet the Dog: Quinn Smith, who played Timmy Lupus in the first film, couldn't take part in the second film. They were able to get him for a brief scene at the beginning where they show him getting visited by some of his teammates while recovering from a broken leg, with the insinuation that he was a huge part of their second season.
  • Positive Discrimination: The whole reason the Bears exist is because one of the players' parents is an attorney, and decided to sue the league. He also paid Buttermaker to coach the team.
    Cleveland: Goddamn class action suits are gonna be the ruin of this country.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: One of the poster childs of this trope.
  • Save Our Team: While this is the basic premise, the movie Averts all the usual trappings. The coach is a disinterested drunk, the players don't really get along with each other, they only finally start winning because of Amanda and Kelly, and they lose the championship to the juggernaut Yankees.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: The Bad News Bears Go to Japan.
  • Two Decades Behind: The other teams all wear polyester uniforms with an elastic waist band and pullover jerseys while the bears are wearing loosefitting flannel button downs with the belt. However this becomes more of a hilarious in hindsight as the new style was gone by the 90s and teams have again returned to a fashion much more similar to what the Bears were wearing.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Subverted, and it was the first film to subvert the trope.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Roy's wife after he smacked their son, Joey, on the mound for throwing at Engelberg. Her issue is likely how cold and business-like he was about it.
    Mrs. Turner: You son of a bitch!
    Roy: Tried to bean him, could've killed that kid.
    Mrs. Turner: Well you know why he threw it.
    Roy: I told him to throw it low and outside.
  • Win One for the Gipper: In Breaking Training. They even show the famous clip from Knute Rockne, All American on a hotel television set.
  • You Go, Girl!: Amanda. Downplayed in that she has to be talked into playing, her acceptance on the team is a very minor source of conflict at most (as the team's equal-opportunity bigot, Tanner, is the only one to have issue, and she quickly puts him in his place), and one of her conditions for joining the team is that Buttermaker pays for her designer clothes and ballet classes.

The 2005 remake contains examples of:

  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Inverted. Buttermaker, when meeting with the rival coach in an attempt to shake hands after their disasterous first game, mentions that the rival coach "has grapes" in what is an unsubtle reference to the rival coach's balls.
  • Bowdlerisation: In the remake, Billy Bob Thornton wasn't allowed to drink beer on the dugout, though he was allowed to spike it with some hard liquor as a compromise.
  • Curse Cut Short: Not in the film itself, but the promotional spots for the remake had the scene where Buttermaker mentions his previously being sent to jail (as well as implying his status as a Prison Rape victim), but the scene conveniently cuts to the "Coming Soon" final seconds just as Buttermaker is about to say the word "ass."
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Despite being a "politically correct" remake, there were a lot more dirty stuff that the creators got away with. For one thing, they had Buttermaker alluding to prison sexuality in the beginning of the film.
  • Prison Rape: Buttermaker implies in the beginning of the film when talking with a woman and her kid that he was a victim of this. It's a surprise that this got past the censors.


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