When Judge Eric Profancik was a kid, his family was so poor they used to light the chairs on fire to keep warm. Wait, that isn't funny at all!
Get off the bench and get into the game.
Me likes the juvenile humor. Nothing makes me laugh or get stupid faster than a good fart joke. The quality farting in White Chicks and Harold and Kumar Go to the White Castle are standout moments of great flatulence in cinematic history. In The Benchwarmers, I came across my first fart joke that grossed me out. It was such a rich and juicy fart, layered just an inch above a kid's face that I got a bit squeamish. But the fart scene doesn't last long and when the kid gets his flatulent retribution, it's priceless.
Do you like juvenile humor? Farting? Nose picking? Puking? Violence upon teenagers? If so, then this movie is for you. If not, go no further.
Facts of the Case
"If you build it, nerds will come."
One day, three nerdy kids are playing catch on a ball field. They're having fun in their own inept way when in comes a team of mean little-leaguers. It's their field and they want to practice. "But there's enough room for both of us," says one nerd. The big bully decides to make a lesson of the other and pushes him around. Across the street, Gus (Rob Schneider, The Hot Chick) is taking a break from mowing the lawn, talking to his friend and paperboy Clark (Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite), when he sees the bullies picking on the nerds. He run over and breaks up the ruckus, asking the bully to be nice. But a bully is a bully and won't back down, so Gus challenges the little leaguers to a game. Whoever wins gets the field. The team agrees, and Gus and Clark round up their other friend, video store clerk Richie (David Spade, Black Sheep), play the kids, and win.
Nerds all around rejoice at the defeat of the bullies. One of the nerds who was saved by Gus tells his dad, Mel (Jon Lovitz, A League of Their Own), about the game. Mel, a nerd who has gone on to become a billionaire, decides to take the three guys and sponsor a tournament of little leaguers versus three older guys. The prize: a new stadium for the winning team. More importantly, however, it's an opportunity for nerds to see they don't have to be the underdog.
"Let's kick some hairless ass."
Somewhere in the movie there's buried a morality lesson and a chewy, soft center of happiness. We really don't care about life's lessons learned and becoming a better person. No, we're far more interested in the puerile antics and infantile behavior of the three older guys. I enjoyed The Benchwarmers more than I anticipated. I recall seeing the trailer a few months back and thinking it looked pretty dumb—but not in a good way—and I passed on seeing it. (That in itself doesn't mean much since I go to the theater quite infrequently these days.) Surprisingly, my parents, who do go to every new movie, mentioned how funny they found it. I didn't believe them, but both of them wanted to tell me about some of the funny things in there, but I told them not to. Now, seeing it myself, it's certainly not a great movie, but I laughed quite a bit. On top of that, there's a lot to like in the movie from the characters to the situations to the many memorable quotes.
As I watched the movie, it became apparent that many of the actors were doing nothing more than playing their strengths: Jon Heder was a variation of Napoleon Dynamite, David Spade was just a friendlier version of his sarcastic self, and Jon Lovitz was his usual self-confident, full of bluster bravado, nerd. (Even Heder admitted to that fact during the commentary track.) This isn't a bad thing because it works in the movie. What isn't expected is Rob Schneider's character, Gus, who isn't his typical guy. Here, Gus is the hero. He's the stud, the great guy, the player who inspires, leads, and motivates. That's not the Rob we know, best known for his primo loser appeal. And what's he doing with Molly Sims (Las Vegas) as his wife?
I enjoyed Heder as the nose-picking dweeb, Spade as the sarcastic scaredy-cat, and Rob as the BMOC. But even though these guys are the stars and they do a great job in their roles, it turns out that they get overshadowed by two of the supporting characters: Mel and Howie (Nick Swardson, Grandma's Boy), Richie's brother. Once you meet Mel, if you have any geek in you, you will love this guy. He's the geek that you want to grow up to be, owning your own K.I.T.T. car, a Batmobile, and having a fabulous home decorated with every awesome piece of Star Wars memorabilia you can think of. Topping everyone in the goofiness factor is Howie, the agoraphobic. He's afraid of the big, bad sun, and he lives in a closet. Of course he's coaxed out many times, and every time he's on screen he steals the show. He's the ultimate loveable loser freak.
The DVD from Sony is a solid release. Featuring a 1.85:1 anamorphic video transfer, I found no significant problems—unless you really want to squint hard. The picture is clean and vibrant, with accurate, realistic colors, nice blacks, and fine sharpness and detail. Weeding through the myriad audio options, you find yourself with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that, like its video counterpart, is a sound transfer. This dialogue-intensive film doesn't demand much from the audio, but you get crisp and clean dialogue from the center and some minimal use of the surrounds and subwoofer. Overall, it looks and sounds good, and you'll have no distractions from the silly humor. (Oh, and what's up with seven subtitle options?)
Surprised by the movie and now surprised by the disc, there's more than I expected in the bonus department. There are two audio commentaries for you to listen. First up is director Dennis Dugan, "Happy Madison's go-to guy" (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy). I didn't enjoy this commentary track too much. Dennis was very laid back, dry, not especially enthusiastic, and left too much dead air. Next up is a commentary by Spade and Heder. These two animatedly talk throughout the movie, sharing all kinds of odd stories about The Benchwarmers. At times apparently antagonistic but mostly friendly, this commentary was satisfactory but was just missing something. It could have been a bit better. Moving on, there are a group of four featurettes (with a "play all" feature) that are all quite superficial and not especially informative: "Nerd vs. Bullies" (5:45 minutes) asks the actors which they were growing up; "Mr. October" (8:10 minutes) gives lots of praise to Reggie Jackson for his role in the movie; "Play Ball America" (6:03 minutes) goes on about America's love of baseball; and, lastly, "Who's on Deck?" (2:37 minutes) is a montage of Howie's scenes from the movie. Next we have four brief deleted scenes (with a play all feature) lasting only three minutes. And, closing it out, are a bevy of trailers for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Open Season, Monster House, RV, The Pink Panther (2006), Fun with Dick and Jane, Big Daddy, Joe Dirt, Ultraviolet, The James Bond Ultimate Collection, and The Princess Bride.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Farting in a kid's face? Nose picking? Hitting a baseball into a kid's chest? Explosive vomit? Diarrhea? Yeah, it sounds like a movie from the folks at Happy Madison. Watch it if you want to feel stupider.
The world needs ditch diggers too, and we all need a good, stupid movie from time to time. If you want to watch a movie filled with funny, juvenile humor that will make you smile and make an hour and a half go by quickly, then The Benchwarmers is for you. It isn't original (think The Bad News Bears mating with Napoleon Dynamite) but the pieces come together such that it doesn't feel old or stale. The DVD has nice transfers, an interesting though not especially strong set of bonus items, and it is certainly worth an evening's rental. I think I'll give this one another viewing tonight.
The court hereby finds The Benchwarmers guilty of behaving like a ten year old. Now go to your closet and be quiet.
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