Directed by Dennis Dugan. Starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilborn, Molly Sims, Tim Meadows, Amaury Nolasco, Reggie Jackson. (2006, PG-13, 80 min.)
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., April 14, 2006
Ah, springtime. Days are longer, nights are warmer, baseball is on the television, and bad baseball movies are in the theatre. The Benchwarmers is the latest comedy from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, otherwise known as the company started by a successful comedian in attempts to keep his unsuccessful friends employed. Schneider, Spade, and Heder star in this story about three hapless friends competing in a Little League tournament against all the bullying teams from around the state. Lovitz adds to this cocktail of comedy with a mostly uninspired performance as a billionaire ex-nerd who supports the team. Some of his abundant Star Wars memorabilia provokes a smile, as does his character’s possession of both the Batmobile and the car from Knight Rider. But unfortunately, as our heroes gain a ridiculously massive following, the painful jokes keep piling up: booger eating, vomit, diarrhea, and titty twisters abound. Need I mention Spade’s wig? Every turn is so jarringly predictable that watching the story unfold becomes a game of filling in the comedy blanks. Have they made the gay joke yet? There it is. Okay, now where’s the midget? Don’t worry. There are two. While a good comedy doesn’t need surprising plot twists, it does need one thing that this film just does not provide: laughs. After the first 30 minutes, I really would have been happy with just one. Unfortunately, watching Schneider act is comparable to watching a car wreck. It can be difficult to turn away. But you must. And trust me, you’ll be better for it. The truly frustrating element is the presence of Heder in this film. After his iconic performance in the breakout Napoleon Dynamite, it’s a sad sight to see this young comic pairing up with the faded presences of Spade and Schneider. To their credit, the filmmakers do attempt the delightful absurdity of former Happy Madison classics, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. There’s the man who appears exclusively and inexplicably in a Speedo and the vaguely humorous agoraphobic fighting off Girl Scouts with a plastic sword. Though not entirely incapable of provoking a smile (or two), The Benchwarmers strikes out. Again and again and again.