When filmmakers get the idea to remake a classic movie, often it's because he or she feels that something was missing from the original. They feel that, by placing their unique stamp on the new film, they can satisfy unanswered questions, plot points, etc, while maintaining the basic dignity and character of the original.
So...based on that theory, Billy Bob Thornton's rationale for the remake of "The Bad News Bears" was that the original had too many letters in the title (in a bold and highly daring move reminiscent of Ed Wood at his finest, Thornton decided to drop "The", changing it simply to "Bad News Bears"), not enough swearing...and a kid in a wheelchair. Oh, and he changes enemy Yankee pitcher's last name from "Turner" to "Bullok" for reasons unbeknownst to anyone but himself. With revolutionary alterations such as these, don't be surprised if you pick up the rental box half a dozen times while watching the movie to make absolutely sure that you have indeed rented the correct film.
Basically, the plot can be summed up as "Bad Santa coaches a group of misfit kids". Yawn. We've seen this role, this performance, from Billy Bob Thornton one too many times. Thornton wants to bowl us over with the 'shocking' vulgarity of youth, but a trip to "Hooters" and Tanner teaching a boy in a wheelchair to curse both turn out to be so lightweight that it is likely that only the Reverend Jerry Falwell would take offense.
At best, the casting was marginal, and at worst, the audience is forced to wonder if the director actually auditioned the kids or merely closed his eyes and chanted 'Eenie, Meenie, Mynie, Mo" while holding a stack of acting resumes. Sammi Kane Kraft (as Amanda) was a great baseball player with limited acting ability, and Timmy Deters was only modestly successful in trying to recreate the role of Tanner Boyle. Tyler Patrick Jones as Timmy Lupus was far and away the most talented of what basically amounted to a mediocre cast of child actors, but he was utterly wasted in this film and was limited to a few one-liners that must have ended up on the cutting room floor from "Bad Santa". Naturally, Thornton is no match for the venerable Walter Matthau as Buttermaker. Whereas Matthau was irascible and cantankerous in a lovable 'Grandpa's dipping in the cider again' kind of way, Thornton's version of Buttermaker is creepy enough to make us think of adequate background checks and the stupidity of parents who would willingly leave their children alone with him.
Per his film tradition in his post "Sling Blade" days, Thornton goes out of his way to remove any heartfelt sentiment from the plot, and thus the friendship between Timmy Lupus and Tanner Boyle never materializes. That adds to what is perhaps the most irritating part of the film: the introduction of a new player (Tony Gentile as Matthew Hooper). It is an unnecessary plot device, possibly added only because the always classy Thornton had some good 'kid in wheelchair' jokes that he was just itching to use, and adds a touch of surrealism to a movie that should be imminently grounded in realism. In fact, Thornton changes one of the most touching moments of the original movie by handing it to Hooper (a character who, let's face it, has no redeeming qualities other than the fact that he's in a wheelchair) in one highly unrealistic scene; he thereby successfully strips even more of the heart away from the original film. Which, judging from Thornton's film-making history, was probably exactly what he intended to do.
In short, there are undoubtedly worse remakes out there ("War of the Worlds" and "Bewitched" come to mind), but not many. If you're thinking of renting this film because you're desperate for some true seventies banality, allow me to suggest that you save the money and instead try catching either the rerun of "Alice" where Flo says "Kiss my grits" for the eighteenth time or the action-packed episode of "My Three Sons" where Fred MacMurray lights his pipe. If you choose to rent the film anyway...well, don't say I didn't give you any other viable options.