Time: 102 mins.
SYNOPSIS: Morris Buttermaker, an irascible, alcoholic, ex-ballplayer is roped into coaching the worst group of kids ever assembled onto one team. Their cause is utterly and hysterically hopeless until he convinces the daughter of his ex-girlfriend to be the team's pitcher.
BOTTOM LINE: Matthau and company take Little League to a hilarous low in this not-quite family comedy. Having only seen clips of the film until recently, I was a bit surprised by some of the film's content. PG was a lot different in 1976 than it is today, which makes for huge laughs for adults and innappropriate ones for young kids. You'd think Matthau being constantly drunk would be the worst issue, but it's really the language (mostly racial slurs) which will cause some people to shudder.
What makes that forgivable is the overall story which is just as relevant, sweet and funny 30 years later. Buttermaker is not the best role model, but he's all these misfit kids have and eventually they come together as a team, making a run for the championship. Luck and cheating will only carry a team so far and when the last out comes they get what's coming to them a satisfying end to their season. Without the enormous talent of O'Neal, Matthau and Haley, this movie would have been forgotten a long time ago.
The charm of this film is that there's no deep "message" that wraps up the story. The only thing the Bears learn is how good it feels to embarrass those who believe they're better than you. Not exactly a lesson most parents what to teach their kids. They lose the battle but win the war because no expected or wanted them to be contenders. It's a film that speaks to all the outsiders of the world, showing you that you can make a difference...even if it's only to scare the crap out of your competition. The Bears are a team you won't soon forget and one you can't help rooting for.