Tuesday, October 23, 2012

As Bad As You Might Expect, Only Worse: The Benchwarmers Illustrates Why Zero Out Of Ten Is A Legitimate Rating!

The Good: Casting
The Bad: Terrible acting, characters, plot. Moments of message are mortgaged by lame humor and homophobia
The Basics: In a terribly unfunny film, three losers fight for children who are picked on by playing baseball against children who the audience is supposed to laugh at. Insulting and dumb.

Every now and then, I encounter a movie that I watch and I shake my head and say "Wow, I’m glad I start my ratings at zero!" In the past, with movies like Scary Movie 4 (reviewed here!), I go so far as to suggest that films like this are why Al Queda hates the U.S. After all, if your people were starving and you learned that Americans spent $57,000,000 at the box office on a movie where the level of humor was a recurring joke about children farting in the face of other children, it might make you want to blow something up. I'm not saying that should happen, but my reaction to watching The Benchwarmers on DVD was to think, "$57,000,000" could have been spent so much better. I mean, I'm beginning to think American's can't be trusted with their money when they would collectively spend $57 million on this drecht.

Gus is a landscaper who is trying to start a family with his wife and who essentially watches out for the neighborhood he lives and works in. So, when he sees people bullying a young boy, he steps in. Later, he encounters the same bullies while he and his friends are playing on the local baseball diamond. When Gus, Richie and Clark squarely beat a Little League team of children, billionaire Mel becomes intrigued by them and sends them to play against other kids' teams in the area, offering a baseball stadium to the children who can beat the trio of losers.

The Benchwarmers is billed as crude, adolescent humor with the potentially redeeming factor being its positive message. The three protagonists, as well as a bevy of supplemental characters, are billed as losers, adults who were picked on mercilessly as children, who are out fighting for the underdog. Any attempt at making this argument fails for two reasons. The first is that almost all of the kids that The Benchwarmers are fighting on behalf of are portrayed with obvious defects. So, for example, one kid spits constantly when he talks. In addition to not being funny - watching him spit in other characters' faces, then be imitated by Rob Schneider - it undermines the message of the movie by asking the audience to do act contrary to the message of the film. In short, the philosophy the movie espouses is that no child deserves to be laughed at and mocked, is contradicted by the expectation that we laugh at these kids. Fortunately, the movie is not funny enough to succeed.

Whatever positive message The Benchwarmers has in its anti-bullying message is further mortgaged by the rampant homophobia and sexism in the film. Unlike Shark's Tale (reviewed here!), which was rampant in its racist implications, The Benchwarmers does not bother to hide its disdain for women and homosexuals. Women here are tools, with Gus's wife Liz being portrayed as a nag and Gus having to deal with the inconvenience of her needs. In fact, the viewer has to wonder why Liz wants anything to do with Gus when he prioritizes hanging out with his nosepicking friend more than staying home and making love with her. And from the moment Swimmer Boy comes into the movie as a cheap gay joke, the movie turns beyond a stupid farce into something perpetrating antigay dogma and continued bigotry.

Beyond that, The Benchwarmers is not funny. It's hard to see how this movie would even succeed in entertaining those in the 13 -18 year old age range, which seems to be the audience it is intended for. Unlike Adam Sandler's dramatic renaissance where he has overcome the comedic limitations placed on him through consistently bad writing, Rob Schneider seems content to wallow in them. His character, Gus, is utterly unredeemable in the way he is created on the page and portrayed on screen by Schneider.

Even worse, though, is Jon Heder, who plays Clark. Typecast now as an uber-nerd, no doubt from the cult success of Napoleon Dynamite (reviewed here!), Heder plays Clark with nothing new or different, nothing that is distinctive or fun to watch. No, watching Heder play a character whose sole defining attribute is picking his nose on screen and eating his boogers is just bad.

Similarly, David Spade plays Richie with little distinction or definition. Richie could be any terrible schtick from Spade's days on Saturday Night Live. Here he gives a particularly listless performance, as if he knows his character is saying and doing nothing funny for the entire eighty minutes of this garbage.

Who will like this? Not anyone who likes intelligent movies. Not people who like baseball (there's far too little of that to justify Major League Baseball's promotions of this movie), not people who want a good underdog story, and not those who fight for equal right for all people. Certainly not anyone looking for a laugh. This will not provide that.

For other works with Rob Schneider, check out my reviews of:
Jack And Jill
You Don’t Mess With The Zohan
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry
50 First Dates
Mr. Deeds


For other film reviews, please be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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