Benchwarmers at first glance appears to be a stupid comedy. Produced by Adam Sandler (Big Daddy) and starring Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow), the movie’s 85 minute existence appears to be an aberration in the space time continuum, something that should not be discussed or hinted at for all eternity. Now, I’m not in this to bash Schneider, God, every critic has done that already, and I can’t add any new material. But in his role as Gus, he just isn’t believable.
Gus is … landscaper whose friends are Richie (David Spade, Tommy Boy) and Clark (Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite). They have been picked on by Jerry (Craig Kilborn, Old School) for years, and Jerry’s little league baseball team decides to challenge the three men to baseball. Now, Richie and Clark both suck raw eggs until they hatch, but Gus is the stud of the triumvirate, so they amazingly beat the team easily. After they play another couple of games, they begin to gather a following. Current nerds (or nerds who have been rehabilitated to upstanding members of the community, like Mel (Jon Lovitz, Coneheads)) help finance the trio’s quest to win a baseball tournament based on their collective talent (or lack thereof).
Now believe me, the concept is fine in theory, but in execution, it really doesn’t get pulled off all that well. Schneider, while not believable is tolerable (go figure that), but the supporting cast appear to be phoning it in. Spade is well, Spade, I can’t really add much more to that, but Heder appears to be recycling his performance as Napoleon. In the midst of rural Idaho (or Utah), that may come off as charming and nice with a little bit of eccentricity, but in California, as a snot and bug eating, helmet and knee pad wearing momma’s boy with digestive problems, he’s the cheap laugh that isn’t even funny.
Now it’s been several years and I’m still trying to find out just why Kilborn is doing whatever he’s doing, and bringing along fellow ESPN talking heads like Sean Salisbury and Dan Patrick was annoying and obtrusive. And as far as athlete cameos go, Bill Romanowski is a reprehensible turd that will be better off in a place where it never gets cold, and I’m not talking about Tahiti. The movie does have a cute (but mixed) message where it’s better to have fun and suck, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that. In its attempt to reach out and make a sort of children’s flick, the humor in Benchwarmers isn’t funny to kids, much less the grown ups that would show this to them.
Imagine that, this is shot in anamorphic 1.85:1. It looks good to be honest, it’s a natural image that has a consistent layer of film grain the whole time. Blacks are solid and colors don’t bleed, and Sony has kept the image free from artifacts and this has a clean print.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. I know, pretty funny right? Well, this is actually a good track. The surround effects are used smartly, like when characters disappear out of frame, or when Clark loses control of his bat and hits a couple of car windows. And nothing sounds like sonic perfection more than a drunk Hispanic vomiting on Tim Meadows to uplift the heart and soul.
Two commentaries, but both are disappointing. The first, with director Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore) isn’t too dynamic (as he freely admits), as he recalls the usual production stories and things he witnessed on set. The second commentary with Spade and Heder I was kind of looking forward to, but it’s mostly just pointing out things from the film and using stories that were quite frankly, boring. Sony could probably have consolidated these tracks and made things a little bit more enjoyable, but oh well. The other extras on the disc include a series of featurettes on the making of the film, baseball in general, and whether or not cast members were geeks or jocks. Four deleted scenes totaling about 3 minute in length follow, along with the obligatory trailers for other Sony releases.
Benchwarmers is a confused movie that doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be either Bad News Bears or Bull Durham. It fails in both missions terribly, resulting in a scatological comedy with jokes that aren’t funny and characters that are annoying rather than charismatic. The picture looks nice and the sound is good, but when the movie is bile, you might as well wait for cable on this one.
Special Features List
- Director Commentary
- Cast Commentary
- Deleted Scenes