Reteaming star Billy Bob Thornton with the writers of Bad Santa and putting him under the care of director Richard Linklater, this remake of one of the most subversive comedies of the 1970s has all the ingredients for success all the ingredients, that is, save a relevant social context. In a world that's already seen South Park and Wonder Showzen, how much call is there for loudly inappropriate kids to re-storm the baseball diamond, especially when their most infamous (and thus essential) line of dialogue has been excised? The quaint shadow of outrages past hovers over this otherwise faithful interpretation, which acts as if girls playing softball is still the height of insurrection; the few changes that have been made provide a quickie lesson in which demographic groups remain fair game for pillorying and which ones are now simply too lawyered up. Linklater, who won big by casting nonactors in School of Rock, has less luck with his latest team of unknowns, whose occasionally flat line readings fail to fully realize the rage that bubbles just beneath the Bears' profound ineptitude. (Local boy Jeff Davies is, thankfully, a highly professional exception.) What the remake does contribute is a reassuringly unforced tone and the idea that losing with (something like) dignity beats winning at all costs a message that resonates even more now than it did in 1976.
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