â€¢ THE BAD NEWS BEARS is good news for movie fans, who can expect a big dose of pure entertainment, as well as food for thought, as they watch a team of misfits struggling to make good in Little League baseball. Director Michael Ritchie, whose recent movie Smile exposed the cynical manipulations behind teenage beauty pageants, here probes both the constructive and destructive aspects of the "competitive spirit" promoted by children's sports. In terms of both integrity and common sense, the kids come off as far superior to the adults, who include a meddling local politician, a coach obsessed with winning, and assorted parents attempting to achieve reflected glory through their children. The most sympathetic grownup on hand is Walter Matthau, as a beer-guzzling, over-the-hill minor league player who is tapped to coach a rag-tag "expansion" team. After a disastrous first game, Matthau manages to save the team from oblivion with the aid of a ringer, Tatum O'Neal, who comes on as chief pitcher and the only girl on the team. As the plot centers on the Bears' drive toward a showdown for the league championship, the movie allows for some character development, as Tatum O'Neal vainly attempts to re-establish a romantic relationship between her mother and Matthau. Most of the acting is first-rate; Ritchie has a gift for allowing children to act naturally, without either hamming it up or stifling themselves. There is quite a bit of excitement and natural humor in Little League baseball, and this movie bites off a good chunk of it. Rated "PG." â€"Charles F. Barr
â€¢ THE DUCHESS AND THE DIRT WATER FOX is a tacky comedy-western that misfires badly in its attempt to wring laughter from the exploits of a couple of con artists. George Segal is more pathetic than sympathetic as an inept cheater at cards, while Goldie Hawn fares only slightly better as a dance-hall girl attempting to become a "lady" by passing herself off as a prospective governess for a large Mormon family. The movie suffers from at least two major flaws: its humor depends for the most part on worn-out chase gags, and its characters, at best, are not very likeable. Nor are the actors helped by a screenplay that generally just plods along. In the few worthwhile sight gags, Segal's horse appears to have the best parts, stepping away when Segal attempts to leap upon him from a second story window, and later leaving Segal and Hawn hung out to dry while pursuing a lady horse. Perhaps the movie would have been better with Segal's horse in the lead. Rated "PG." â€"C.F.B.
â€¢ The title of Lina Wertmuller's ALL SCREWED UP, made in 1974 before Swept Away, is a reference to both modern industrial society as she sees it and one of her forlorn characters whose every pregnancy results in a multiple birth, thereby increasing her family's grinding poverty. Her husband, like several others in this political comedy, has come from Sicily to Milan where the impact of urban life on country peasants is devastating. In this respect the film is reminiscent of Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers, but without Visconti's vision. It is a mean, narrow little film that once again combines Miss Wertmuller's distaste for private economic motivation with her peculiarly ungallant attitude towards women. The city turns everyone into whores and thieves in order to survive, and women are seen as the chief among scheming manipulators, looking at everything, including personal relationships, in terms of monetary value. This is a situation, Miss Wertmuller suggests, that capitalism has created and that some form of socialism can cure. But Miss Wertmuller wants to have her cake and eat it too. At one point in the film the tenants of an old apartment building, the lone survivor in a jungle of high-rises, manage to have the building declared both an historic landmark and subject to rent control, and this is seen as a victory over the exploiting developers who want to tear down the building and put up a new structure. At another point, however, Miss Wertmuller is lashing out against the government's anti-abortion stand that forces women to resort to unsanitary abortion mills. The film ironically points out that there can be no surrender of economic freedom to government without a loss of personal freedom, and yet it appears that this is precisely what Miss Wertmuller would like to achieve. If Miss Wertmuller is not a particularly lucid thinker, she is nevertheless one of the most compelling filmmakers today. Her films are beautifully acted and full of high energy, and All Screwed Up is no exception. If you can accept her on her own terms, or perhaps in spite of them, her films will at the very least provide a good deal of entertainment. Rated "PG." â€"James F. Carey