Those ragtag ballplayers from California are back in this underrated fun sequel to the very successful 1976 film that starred Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal.
While Matthau and O’Neal are not in the sequel, most of the original ballplayers do return, most notably a pre-Watchmen Jackie Earle Haley as star player Kelly Leak. While most of the original film focused on Coach Morris Buttermaker and star pitcher, there was something about Haley’s portrayal of Kelly Leak that struck fans and as a result, screenwriter Paul Brickman made Kelly the central character in this sequel.
The Bears, the little league team from California, have been invited to play a game in Houston, Texas at the Astrodome where they will play the local team from Houston, the Toros, in a game to determine who will go to Japan to take on the Japanese baseball team. When the team disapproves of their new coach, the team does the next best thing. They make a break for Houston on their own. With Kelly leading the way as the driver, the team heads for Houston, where along the way, they encounter tons of misadventures from playing a local Native American baseball team (and get creamed) and nearly end up in police custody.
The team eventually finds their coach in Mike, who turns out to be Kelly’s long lost father. Despite asking Mike to be the coach, Kelly still has some resentment against his father for leaving him when he was a young child. However, as the team prepares for their game, Mike gives the team some pointers on the game of baseball and even gives a few tips to the new pitcher, wannabe Carmen Ronzonni. On the other hand, the Toros are a more dominant force and prove that they could be the toughest challenge the Bears ever faced this side of the Little League.
With the addition of Ronzonni, the only replacement actor in the Bears team is Jeffrey Louis Starr, who took over the role of catcher Mike Engelberg after Gary Lee Cavagnaro declined to reprise the role due to an astonishing weight loss. As for the shy Timmy Lupus, Quinn Smith returns in only a cameo appearance as Lupus is unable to go to Houston due to an injury. The comic relief comes in the form once again of the “big mouth” of the team, Tanner Boyle, played again by Chris Barnes. You would think he’s mature just even slightly, but proves that he’s the same old mouth, yet proves to play an impact on two occasions throughout the film, one instance paying tribute to the classic film Knute Rockne: All-America.
While the film made enough to spawn the final entry in the film series, The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, some fans felt somewhat dishelved at the absence of Matthau and O’Neal. While they would have made the film a huge hit, it was a good idea in my opinion that we learn more about Kelly Leak and having his father as the coach is a bold move as it seems there were loose ties to fix in Kelly and Mike’s lives since they hadn’t seen each other in years and using the chance to patch up their relationship by the baseball game was a smart move.
I’d recommend The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training to only the hardcore fans of baseball films. While it may not be as successful or as great as its predecessor, it’s a pretty good film on its own and a fun film to enjoy.
WFG RATING: B
A Paramount Pictures production. Director: Michael Pressman. Producer: Leonard Goldberg. Writer: Paul Brickman; based on the characters created by Bill Lancaster. Cinematography: Fred J. Koenekamp. Editing: John W. Wheeler.
Cast: William Devane, Clifton James, Jackie Earle Haley, Chris Barnes, Jimmy Baio, Erin Blunt, Alfred Lutter, David Stambaugh, David Pollock, George Gonzales, Jaime Escobedo, Brett Marx, Quinn Smith, Jeffrey Louis Starr, Lane Smith, Dolph Sweet, Fred Stuthman, Pat Corley.