In this entertaining sequel to The Bad News Bears, one of 1976's top grossing comedies at the box office, the emphasis is upon the boys themselves. Walter Matthau as Coach Morris Buttermaker and Tatum O'Neal as the spitball pitcher are missing from the scene. It's the Bears who carry the story as they travel to Houston without parents or coach in order to play a four-inning title game with the Texas Little League champions.
In keeping with the new emphasis, several of the characters are rounded out in this sequel. Jackie Earle Haley as Kelly Leak leads the group in their cross-country trek. Once in Houston he contacts his estranged father (William DeVane) who becomes the Bears' coach. Through their uneasy relationship, we see another side of Kelly's James Dean persona. Similarly Tanner, one of the most popular characters in the original film, is given a more developed personality. The tiny blonde played by Chris Barnes still badmouths everybody and everything but his nicer side shows as well. It is Tanner who keeps in touch with Lupus, a Bear sidelined at home with a broken leg. After seeing The Knute Rockne Story on TV one night, Tanner admonishes the team to "win one for the Looper."
Michael Pressman directs The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training using a screenplay by Paul Brickman. There is no adult condescension or sentimentality in the ways in which the boys are treated in the film. They are sassy, gutsy, competitive, striving, brash, irresponsible and caring, independent, optimistic, determined, hopeful, and loyal. The Bad News Bears are losers perpetually trying to pass themselves off as winners. That comic tradition goes back to Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges. And its appeal shows no signs of dying out.