Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story
Directed by Brant Sersen. Starring Rob Corddry, Paul Scheer, Dannah Feinglass, Rob Riggle, Curtis Gwinn, Seth Morris, Rob Huebel, Jamie Denbo, D.J. Hazard. (2004, NR, 91 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 21, 2006
Two years after Blackballed premiered at SXSW and received the Audience Award for Best Narrative, the film has finally earned a limited national release before going to DVD this summer. Filmed as a mockumentary, Blackballed stars The Daily Show’s Rob Corddry as Bobby Dukes, a professional paintball athlete looking to reclaim his former glory after being disgraced and banned from the sport for 10 years. His offense? He “wiped” (cheating by using his hand to smear away the telltale paint spatter from his body). Corddry leads a very game cast (many of whom are, or were, members of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe) in this unevenly amusing spoof. Calling to mind the best – and worst – of Christopher Guest’s focused mockumentaries (This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show, to name a couple), writer-director Sersen and co-writer Brian Steinberg aren’t the equals of Guest’s incisive wit. However, their paint bullets hit targets with enough frequency to keep this goofy comedy in play. Blackballed also brings to mind Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, another movie of almost identical vintage in which Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn lead a straight-faced cast through a spoof of athletic competition in general, and a ridiculous sport, more specifically. Sersen’s film has more of a slapdash feel, with jiggly camerawork meant to mimic that of the unseen documentarians, and mismatched lighting, perfunctory paintball action, and overlong dialogue riffs that make the film look more like a really lengthy skit than a fully finished movie. After facing rejection from his former paintball buddies, Bobby Dukes (and he’s almost always called by both names, as befits a legend) forms a team with new players, beginning with the umpire (Scheer) who caught him wiping and ordered him from the game 10 years ago. The process resembles any of a number of caper films in which the ringleader has to round up a handpicked crew and turn the ragged individualists into a fighting team. (One of their – alas – rejected team names is the Dirty Almost Half-Dozen.) In the end, Blackballed doesn’t take home the winner’s cup, but its genial stick-to-itiveness and reasonably well-aimed humor earn the film at least a good-sportsmanship trophy.