Friday, July 29, 2005

Bad News Bears

A few days ago, I promised to write a review of Richard Linklater's new film, Bad News Bears. I saw the film Monday, and the time has now come to review it. Quite frankly, this isn't a very good film, it's not a bad film, but coming from Linklater, you just expect more. It's not as bad as The Newton Boys, but it's his second weakest film, and certainly his most generic film, there's nothing uniquely Linklater about this.

As an auteur work it fails, as a film it's decent entertainment. The story is good, if cliched, and you do get caught up in the travails of the team. There were a lot of bits that had me laughing and Billy Bob Thornton is always entertaining to watch. The problem was too much time was spent with the kids and not enough with Billy Bob. It's largely a repeat of Thornton's Bad Santa schtick, only on a much lighter level, he never gets a chance to be really bad. That's understandable, this is a kid's movie, while Bad Santa wasn't, but still, a little more Billy Bob would have been nice. One of the best scenes was when Liz Whitewood propositions him for sex, and he has an awkward conversation with his son about why he's there.

But, there's just way too much time spent with the kids. In School of Rock, Linklater kept the focus on Jack Black and used the kids primarily as the straight man for him to play off of. Here, towards the end, Thornton becomes the straight man and the kids are the entertainment, only they're not very entertaining. Plus, in School of Rock it was entertaining to watch the kids play music, while watching the kids play baseball doesn't have the same inherent appeal.

Approaching it from an auteur perspective, I just can't see why Linklater would make this movie. It's not original or particularly meaningful, it's a throwaway you can barely remember once you walk out of the theater, and that's quite disappointing. In Dazed and Confused or School of Rock, he was able to craft mainstream movies that were clearly the products of an auteur. Here, he fails to do that, and winds up with a film that could have been directed by anyone. Considering Linklater is arguably the best American director out there today, coming off one of the best films of all time, Before Sunset, it's disheartening to see this utterly pointless movie. Still, at least A Scanner Darkly is on the way, a film that looks totally unique and has the chance to be a major leap for Linklater as an auteur.

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