The Bad News Bears (1976)
Director: Michael Ritchie
Writer: Bill Lancaster
Stars: Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Jackie Earle Haley, Chris Barnes, Gary Lee Cavagnaro, Alfred W. Lutter, Quinn Smith, Vic Morrow
Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), a cranky, alcoholic former minor league pitcher, agrees to coach a team of Little League rejects (Tatum O’Neal, Jackie Earle Haley, Chris Barnes, Gary Lee Cavagnaro, Alfred W. Lutter, and Quinn Smith, among others) and learns a lesson about what is really important.
That sounds like a sappy, pedestrian premise for a run-of-the-mill sports film, but this is anything but that.
Director Michael Richie has crafted a raunchy expose of competitiveness that still has a lot of heart.
When this film came out, a lot of people were shocked by much of the language used by the kids (some of which definitely wouldn’t make it into a movie made today), but what is really shocking is the lengths to which the coaches go to win games.
Buttermaker’s main rival is Roy Turner (Vic Morrow), the coach of the Yankees.
In his drive to best this aggressive opponent, Buttermaker berates and insults his players, sacrificing team spirit by favoring the better players, benching low performers, and even encouraging them to get hurt if it might help the team get a run.
In the end, of course, he learns to value the life lessons that sports can provide when winning ceases to be everything, but this is handled in a manner that is heartwarming and life-affirming without being sappy.
Spoiler alert!!! End of the movie!!
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