Walter Mattheau is like the Einstein of comedy as the jerky (sometimes really jerky) drunk (sometimes really drunk) ex-baseball player roped into training a bunch of seemingly un-athletic kids who now, due to a class action lawsuit, are in a highly competitive youth baseball league. But his easy, convincingly inebriated performance isn't the only one that's made Bad News Bears a mega hit that has endured time to become a comedy classic: the kids, lead by a wise-ass, but sweetly lonely Tatum O' Neal and total bad-ass Jackie Earle Haley (at one point he tells a middle aged woman “I ride a Harley, does that turn you on?”) are amazing!!
I love them so much and wanted Lupus to crawl up in my lap like a fawn every time his little drippy nose was on screen. They seemed so natural in their cursing, bad ball playing, and mixing of martinis; natural in a way that's hard to come by in child actors these days.
I was so taken with the movie and its underdog/winning isn't everything formula that so many movies since have repeated, usually with little success, that I had high hopes for the Billy Bob Thornton/Richard Linklater remake and rented it the next day.
Ugh… all the charm of the original was systematically extracted, starting with the unvarnished childrens' performances that the world cherished from the first movie. It sounds odd to say, but it was way classier when the kids were more foulmouthed and seemed like they knew how to curse. Thornton too seems like he's just stumbling though the movie.
So forgo the remake a rent the original, it's good fun. You can also pull a double header and rent the under appreciated Heavyweights as a great follow up. I swear.