As a baseball-obsessed kid, I recorded this movie on my parents’ VCR as it played on one of the cable channels and watched it over and over. The 12-year-old loved the baseball action. As a 45-year-old wannabe film critic, I’m not as enamored with it; while the first Bad News Bears was a social commentary on competition in addition to being a comedy, this one’s a road trip movie combined with the typical sports flick in which the underdog comes from behind to win (spoiler alert).
In the previous film, the Bears narrowly lost to the hated Yankees, yet somehow they’re playing the Texas state Little League Champions? After a mishap that sends their mercurial coach packing, they devise a plan to make it to Texas in a stolen van. After more mishaps, they make it to Houston, where they’re playing the Toros in the iconic Astrodome.
Now the pro-single part: just like in the first film, no romantic subplot. There is a scene where Ogilvy, the team scorekeeper and brainiac, talks to a couple of Toro groupie girls who give him insider information on the Toros’s players; their motivation seems to be that they have a crush on Ogilvy, who does not reciprocate. He’s taking his team into account over “getting some.”
The film has a few emotional threads as well that involve non-romantic relationships. Kelly Leak, the athletically gifted rebel from the first film, is given more dimension by the writers; he’s revealed to have a father who walked out on the family when he was younger. His motivation for going to Texas is to track him down, which he does (very conveniently) before asking him to coach the team, which Dad does. There’s some friction and vulnerability on both of their parts before they reconcile. We also see the sensitive side of Tanner Boyle, the foul-mouthed, short-tempered shortstop, as he sends to his bedridden teammate, Timmy Lupus, as he had to miss the trip due to a broken leg. It’s touching.
Sequels are generally not as good as originals, and Bad News Bears in Breaking Training is no exception. But I’m glad they didn’t add the romantic subplot to the formula. That's a home run in my book.