Thursday, January 26, 2006

2005 Remakes That Miss The Mark #1

2005 saw the release of a number of remakes of films that are now considered classics. Many of these remakes were well made, but few seemed as honest as the original versions of decades past.

Take, for example "The Bad News Bears." The original 1976 film was wildly successful and unusually honest in portraying a little league team of outcast kids and their drunken coach (Walter Mathau). The kids were real: they cursed, one smoked, one even threw out racial slurs. But like real kids, we occasionally saw beyond who they tried to be and learned who they really were. Early in the film, when the Bears have been humiliated in yet another defeat, the team tells the coach that they can't take the humiliation anymore, and they want to quit. The coach asks each of the boys how they feel, and almost everyone agrees. Finally, he asks Tanner, the smallest kid and the biggest loudmouth in the group, if he wants to quit. Despite his seemingly cynical attitude, he responds quitetly to the coach, "Hell no, I want to play." It was a moment when Tanner's true personality came through - and it made him seem real.

The 2005 version, in some ways, was faithful to the original, leaving intact the basic characters and plotline, with some adjustments to reflect the world we live in 30 years later. Billy Bob Thornton takes over the Walter Mathau role, still a drunk, but now an exterminator instead of a pool man. Most of the kids on the team are the same, and some even look eerily like their predecessors. Overall, however, the film simply didn't feel as authentic as the original. The young actors seemed to be impersonating the actors that came before them, and the script missed those moments that made the original work so well. In this film's version of the quitting scene I decscribed, Tanner's heartfelt response, and the reaction it elicits from the coach and his teammates, is missing. He's reduced to a one-dimensional approximation of the original Tanner. It's a pattern repeated throughout the film. All the Bears become stereotypes. This remake is like so many of the films that followed in the genre the original created: It lacks heart.

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