1998, R, 103 min. Directed by David Zucker. Starring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Yasmine Bleeth, Jenny Mccarthy, Robert Vaughn, Ernest Borgnine, Dian Bachar, Trevor Einhorn, Bob Costas.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 31, 1998
Subtlety has never been David Zucker's (Airplane!) forte, and now teamed with the creators of South Park in this professional sports parody, the notion is completely killed off once and for all. Not that that's a bad thing. Fans of Parker and Stone's screechingly warped sensibilities will doubtless find Baseketball right up their alley, as will lovers of the gag-filled ZAZ films (Naked Gun, Hot Shots!). This, then, is a sort of meeting of minds for the bathroom-humor set, albeit with some new twists, most of which result from Parker and Stone's deliciously renegade onscreen presence. It's nice to know these guys are just as inventive in front of the camera as they are behind it. Parker plays Joseph “Coop” Cooper who, along with his childhood friend Doug Remer (Stone), has grown up watching the fall of professional athletic competitions via inflated salaries, free agencies, greedy managers, and the sort of generally unsportsmanlike misconduct that chokes the stadiums these days. He's always dreamed of being like his hero Reggie Jackson, but as Baseketball opens, the pair are just another sloppy twentysomething duo hard-pressed to make their rent. That all changes when they inadvertently create a new sports sensation in the form of baseketball, a driveway game for “guys that can't run and have bad backs” that combines the free-throw aspects of basketball with the innings of baseball. Before long, the game takes off nationally, a league -- with rules firmly in place that disallow the trading of players, overripe salaries, and so on -- is formed, and the fledgling sport goes national with Coop and Remer playing for the Milwaukee Beers. Enter Baxter Cain (Vaughn), a scheming club owner seeking to twist the game to his own nefarious ends, and Bleeth as Jenna Reed, the owner of a “Make a Wish Foundation”-type charity for ailing children and Coop's soon-to-be love interest. Along with teammate Kenny “Squeak” Scolari (Bachar), Coop and Remer must fight off the evil Cain, woo Reed, and, of course, save “Little Joey” (Einhorn). Unlike Zucker's previous one-note laff riots, Baseketball flows more from the amiable characterizations of its two leads, who are obviously as comfortable in front of the camera as they are making fart jokes behind it. In fact, what's so interesting about Baseketball is how much of a step above South Park this all is. I'm not saying it's better, just that it seems less crude, more slaphappy, than gag-happy. There are, to be sure, plenty of gross-outs; part of the baseketball rules involve “psyching out” the other team, and Parker (the cute one) and Stone (the horny one) do their best bathroom revelry here. It's not, say, Monty Python we're dealing with here, but the next rung on a very warped comedic ladder that began when the Marx Brothers were still in diapers. Sick, twisted, and very funny, Parker and Stone have arrived. Again.