A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bad News Bears is a rough-edged kids' baseball comedy with some profanity ("s--t," "bitch," "bastard," "spic," the "N" word) and really iffy behavior (kids smoke, gamble, and ride motorcycles). During the end celebration, the coach gives beer to the 11-year-olds. One character is an alcoholic. The parents push their kids to win at all costs, and the kids are often bratty and mean.
What's the story?
In BAD NEWS BEARS, ex-minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) spikes his beer with liquor before taking a check to manage a Little League baseball team. An assortment of misfits, the Bears share one thing: they're all terrible players. At first, Buttermaker cares little for them. But after the boys get humiliated, he recruits secret weapon number one. More interested in ballet than baseball, Amanda (Tatum O'Neal), throws a knee-buckling curve. With Amanda pitching, and the others improving, the Bears gain respectability. When 11year-old, Harley-riding Kelly (Jackie Earle Haley) joins, the Bears become contenders. In the finals they play the Yankees, whose manager (Vic Morrow) mercilessly drives his players. Caught up in the competition, Buttermaker mistreats his team, until he realizes that they're only children playing a game. In the end, though the Bears lose, they regain their pride as Buttermaker tastes redemption.
Is it any good?
A Rocky-style sports movie packed with thrills, The Bad News Bears maintains a level of intelligence that its knock offs, like The Mighty Ducks, can't approach. It's thrilling, funny, and, at times, a poignant baseball film. It also reflects the taboo-testing 1970s. Though edgy, particularly when adults push their kids to win at all costs, it's a winner with a tremendous amount of heart. This movie never condescends as it unblinkingly portrays the not-always-wholesome world of Little League baseball. It's a world where children often brutalize the less skilled while parents insensitively encourage this cutthroat attitude. This theme of adults relentlessly pushing their offspring to succeed, usually more for themselves, is far too recognizable.
Besides this cold dose of reality, the movie also offers a steady supply of laughter. Much of it comes from the colorful collection of characters on the team. Not surprisingly, even more humor emanates from master curmudgeon Walter Matthau and his lively interplay with Tatum O'Neal. O'Neal creates an emotionally rich character who hides her need for a father behind a veneer of precocious independence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sportsmanship and about the pressure that kids who play sports often feel. Is it more important to win or have a good time?
If you could remake this movie, how would you do it? Who would you cast?
What do you think about all the profanity? Was it necessary? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 18, 1976
- On DVD or streaming: July 18, 2002
- Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Tatum O'Neal, Walter Matthau
- Director: Michael Ritchie
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and mature themes
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.