Representing the latest in both superfluous sequels and cumbersome titles. "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" reunites most of the juvenile cast members from last summer's comedy hit about a Little League team and struggles to justify itself as something more than a pale copy by resorting to exaggerated displays of ribaldry and lovability.
Now at five area theaters, the film was hot and released very quickly to partake of the summer trade, long since dominated by "Star Wars." While it's fitfully, harmlessly diverting, "Breaking Training" never overcomes the handicaps that derive from its fundamentally derivative character. You come out of this would-be-new movie persuaded that it would have been more satisfying and protitable to reissue the not-so-old prototype.
A third Bad News Bears comedy is scheduled for production this fall in Japan, where the original film duplicated its American populartiy, "Breaking Training" anticipated this location by transporting the Bears to Houston for a four-inning climination game at the Astrodome that will determine the American representative for a projected tour of Japan.
Michael Ritchie and Bill Lancaster, the director and writer, respectively of "The Bad News Bears," were not involved in "Breaking Training," although they plan to resume participation as producer and writer on the Japanese story, with John Berry of "Claudine" directing. The performance of the interim filmakers, writer Paul Brickman and director Michael Pressman, has been shaky enough to cause problems for the originators, who may now be obliged to rehabilitate a successful formula, preferably by introducing fresh characters and situations. Brickman and Pressman seem to have been inhibited by the formula: They come closer to wearing out the Bears' welcome than protecting the investment.
"Breaking Training" attempts to ingratiate itself with juveniles by depicting the Bears as initially fancy free. After disposing of a pompous new coach, supposedly the successor to the Walter Mattnau character in the first film, the team travels to Houston without parental supervision, in a borrowed van driven by the semidelinquent star Kelly Leach, again played by Jackie Earle Haley.
Since the Bears finished second in their own league, I was never sure why they qualified for the Houston trip. Even if this point were clarified. Brickman's scenario would still suffer from the fact that sending the kids on the road unchaperoned is at once less believable and promising than the commonsense idea of the team descending on Houston with a small army of parents and fans.
It's absurd to imagine that the families of the Bears, a suburban, Southern California team, wouldn't jump at the chance of accompanying the kids to an important game. A movie that took this for granted would also have reicher comic possibilities, on the road and when California athletic boosterism.
"Breaking Training" was probably written hastily. It certainly neglects to develop a logical sequence of events flowing out of the plot and characters in "The Bad News Bears." The devices are either repetitive or heavy handed. For example, Chris Barnes as Tanner Boyle, the hot-tempered little shortstop, is required to repeat one of his punch lines from the first film and throw his glove in disgust about six times too many. In addition, he's given a cloying, smiley palship with Quinn Smith's Lupus, whom Tanner originally disparaged as a sissy, that suggests Disneyesque idealization at its sickliest, precisely the form of idealization Ritchie was trying to contradict.
Repeating a slapstick sequence from the original film, the Bears are shown looking totally inept at practice, although this requires us to become amnesiac, disregarding the fact that the Bears became capable players. It's as if the filmmakers were under orders to repeat popular bits from the original. To the extent that they introduce their own touches, these appear to be crass or mawkish touches.
The need for an adult presence becomes too compelling to ignore after the road hijinks fail to produce any comich highlights. William Devane enters as a belated pinchhitter for Mathau, supposedly the estranged fatherof moody Kelly. The father-son conflict is arbitray, a pretext for Jackie Earle Haley to take Kelly through the same tentative maturation process - from provocation to brooding to reconciliation - that he seemed to have resolved a year ago. Now he looks too old for the team and acts incorrigible on top it.
Devane's perfectly agreeable performance doesn't help clarify the alleged conflict either. The idea that this man would completely neglect his son for eight years seems to be an unimagination. When it isn't falling back on the gags that worked the first time around, "Breaking Training" may be found reaching for straws. Inclined in either direction it may also be found wanting.