Happy 40th Birthday, “The Bad News Bears”


For me, it is essential for a movie to portray real human emotions and real human behavior. Which may sound crazy given how often I’ve made references to superhero movies and sci-fi and stuff around here. But it’s not crazy. Yes, I know that Tony Stark is a far-fetched creation, but the way he’s written and acted gives us a character that has a lot to say about ego and hubris and humor as a defense mechanism and stuff like that. If he wasn’t real on that level, “The Avengers” wouldn’t be a good movie, it’d just be a video game. Likewise, one of my favorite movies ever is “Dark City.” The premise is preposterous, but the characters all portray and embody real human emotions like loss and depression and nostalgia and things. I know it’s kind of out there to make the case for “realism” of such movies, but a movie only works if it shows real people doing real things on some level, even if we have to read into it a little bit to find it.

Same goes for baseball movies. People ask me why I don’t like “Field of Dreams.” It’s not because I’m heartless or pessimistic or whatever. I just don’t think it’s very real on a number of levels. No, not the stuff about ghosts coming out of a cornfield — like I said, I’m very pro-sci-fi and magical realism if it’s well done — but it’s not real on a human level. It taps into some pretty heavy human emotions at times, but it does so, in my view, in some pretty manipulative ways. I realize people love the movie, but what if I told you that you could tell a story about a father-son relationship that DIDN’T require one of the parties to be dead and the stakes to be made so preposterously high? “The Avengers” is a big superhero spectacle supported by some real human undercurrents. “Field of Dreams” tries to be a real human movie but it uses pseudo-deep magical realism in order to do the heavy lifting. Sorry, it’s just wrong to me. On the other hand, “Bull Durham” delievers the human parts of the movie with real human stuff while giving us some entertaining baseball as well.

Which brings us to the “The Bad News Bears.” Which came out 40 years ago. Today Dan Epstein has a great writeup on the flick at “Rolling Stone,” and as he notes, perhaps the greatest thing going for this classic is that it’s unflinchingly real. Those are real kids acting in the profane and crude ways kids really act. That’s a super flawed human being coaching them and the movie doesn’t give him the un-earned heart of gold so many other movies might. The baseball looks real. The setting looks real. It’s all so real and resonant, even if it came before a lot of you were born.

Anyway, it’s a great look at a great flick, so you should read it. Then when you’re done, as you always do, fill the comments up with vitriol about how horrible a person I am to not like “Field of Dreams.” I’ve heard it all before so I won’t be reading it. It’ll be like you’re having a catch with yourself.

“Have a catch.” Please. Like anyone in Iowa says that. GTFO here.