A film review by Craig J. Koban

 
THE BENCHWARMERS ½j

2006, PG-13, 80 mins.

 

Rob Schneider: Gus / David Spade: Richie / Jon Heder: Clark / Jon Lovitz: Mel /

Craig Kilborn: Jerry / Tim Meadows: Wayne

Directed by Dennis Dugan / Written by Allen Covert and Nick Swardson

I will start this review by asking you – my dearest of all loyal readers – a simple question:  What do you like in your movies

The MOVIE DOCTOR is now officially in.  In terms of desired symptoms (things you do look for), would it be any one of the following?

1. Images of young, pre-pubescent boys accosting other pre-pubescent boys, followed by one sticking their rear end directly in another’s face (while he’s pinned down) and passing gas over his open mouth.

2. Images of young, pre-pubescent boys that have animal excrement on their faces as the result of yet another accosting from other pre-pubescent boys.

3.  Images of people eating mass quantities of sun block.

4. Images of people drinking enough alcohol until they vomit alcohol on other people.

5. Images of people picking their noses and then using what they find in their nasal cavity as a quick, mid-afternoon snack.

6. Images of crushed beetles that are utilized by someone as yet another mid-afternoon snack.

7. Images of offensively stereotyped homosexual men that are shown running around in their shorts and like to always give massages and please other men, whether they want it or not.

8. Images of offensively stereotyped Puerto Rican people that like to flirt with women, drink lots of beer, and then vomit the beer on other people (wait…did I cover that already?)

9. Images of a person getting hit in the crouch by rocks and other hard instruments of pain.

10. Images of people urinating in the shower (wait…okay…the off-screen variety too).

11. Images of a young boys that have speech impediments that cause them to spray out saliva on any one that they talk to.

If you answered “yes” to one – or all – of the criteria mentioned, then the new would-be comedy THE BENCHWARMERS is definitely for you.  I will prescribe one of them now, but don't call me after you've seen it.  However, for all other people that have even a miniscule amount of humility, pride, and good old fashioned decency…stay away from this film…far, far away.  Taking it in any small dosage will make you break out into spontaneous depression and low self-worth.

THE BENCHWARMERS is a film that is so cataclysmically and superhumanly awful that it seems to defy the very physics of mediocrity.  At the risk of offending any child readers out there, this movie made me feel like it was pandering down to me as if I were an ignorant and hopelessly naive five-year-old.  Moreover, it simply made me feel stupid and worthless, maybe kind of like how some desperate men must feel when they fail to find any other way to gratify themselves other than to go to a $2.00 peep show that is followed by an obligatory lap dance.  I felt ashamed of myself for seeing THE BENCHWARMERS.  Very few filmgoing experiences have that sort of otherworldly and nauseatingly unhealthy prowess.  This film sucked the life out of me and left me yearning to escape the cineplex and seek blue sky and sunshine to reaffirm that I was not hallucinating on some sort of despicable, voodoo haze.

This film is – not surprisingly – straight from the lethargically unfunny filmmaking vaults of HAPPY MADISON, the production company of Adam Sandler.  “Happy” comes from HAPPY GILMORE, an early, wretched golf comedy starring Sandler.  “Madison” comes from Sandler’s first major comedy, BILLY MADISON, a film that was even more excruciatingly and annoyingly putrid.  I have stated in past reviews that there has yet to be a film comedy that Sandler has made (either in front of or behind the camera) that I have liked.  THE BENCHWARMERS only continues HAPPY MADISON’S proud legacy of defecating on the film going masses.  When will someone perpetrate a vile and cruel joke back on these people?

Sandler – whether it can be seen as a wise or selfish act or both – decided to stay away from appearing in this film.  There were rumours that he was originally set to star in the film.  Maybe he sensed what a spectacular dude the film was going to be so he obviously decided to shift creative gears a bit.  Make no mistake about it, THE BENCHWARMERS is about as infantile and stupid as some of Sandler’s earliest and most terrible pee-pee, poo-poo and bodily fluid laced screwball comedies.  Yet, to make the film even more unbearable and desolate, he seems to have been determined to provide work for some of SNL’s most untalented, past performers.  THE BENCHWARMERS has a few of them parade around during its 80 minutes giving them absolutely nothing interesting or funny to do and say.  It was if these guys were desperate, kind of like those pathetic street bums that lay around sidewalks all day with signs that say, “Will star in dreadful comedy for food.”

Okay…so there is one member of the main cast that is not a former SNL'er.  He's Josh “NAPOLEON DYNAMITE” Heder.  Here he is amusing here again in very modest, small dosages.  Unfortunately, he’s doing Dynamite-lite in THE BENCHWARMERS, playing yet another mentally-challenged doofus with an “aw-shucks” demeanor and goofball likeability.  Yet, within a few minutes of the film it soon becomes apparent that if you want to see him in the same essential role to vastly funnier effect, rent last year’s NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and skip this turd (I am now willing to concede that my two and a half star rating of that film may be - in hindsight - a bit too low).  I guess this film is not helping Heder’s career when he is forced to headline in it with the likes of the unrelentingly talentless Rob Schneider and the less-moronic, but equally wishy-washy David Spade.  Spade himself seems to have a sharp and sarcastic wit that is far too intelligent for a film like this.  The fact that Schneider plays an essential straight man to both Heder and Spade is another strike to the film.  Then again, it also has former talk show host Craig Kilborn slumming his way to a fast paycheck as an evil antagonist to the geeky “heroes.”

The plot itself also does not make much sense.  Just bare with me.  Gus (Schneider) witnesses a local little league bully embarrasses another local nerd youth and decides to do something about it.  He decides to enlist in the help of his friends to team up with him to play a game against the bullies for all of the wimps everywhere.  He recruits two friends who seem like they have never even seen a baseball.  The first is a paperboy, Clark (Heder) and a 39-year-old virginal video store clerk, Richie (Spade).  And….as for the rest of the team?  That’s it.  Just the three of them. Hmmmm…how can a team be comprised of only three players and manage to go on and play semi-competitive baseball later in the film is beyond me.  Oh…they do enlist the help of Richie’s brother later on, but he is not much help.  He is agoraphobic and thinks the sun will kill him instantly.

Needless to say, the trio are so poor as a team that they need help.  Enter the richest geek on the planet, Mel (the comically underused Jon Lovitz) to the rescue.  Mel is sort of like the 40-year-old virgin with Bill Gates’ wallet.  He actually owns the original K.I.T.T. from KNIGHT RIDER as well as the original Batmobile from the 1960’s TV series, both preserved in mint condition.  His mansion is a relative shrine to the STAR WARS SEXTET (his palace gates have an intercom system that has a Darth Vader head speaking to them with James Earl Jones’ voice).  THE BENCHWARMERS has two dominant product placements; one is for PIZZA HUT (featured prominently – they must have paid big bucks to be in the film) and the other is - rather inexplicably -  George Lucas’ STAR WARS SAGA.  Considering the abysmally terrible quality of this comedy, the fact that the flannel-shirted one would ever allow the makers of this film to even had one millisecond of footage that showcased any of his creations proves to be 2006’s greatest, unsolved movie mysteries.  Honestly…do Sandler and his partners at HAPPY MADISON have dirt to blackmail Lucas with?  Seems that way. 

Anyhoo’, Mel helps train the trio with the help of Reggie Jackson…yes…the real one.  His plan is for them is to play against the nation’s little league teams.  Why?  To prove that grown men can beat little boys?  Is that something to be necessarily proud of?  Even beyond that is the film’s almost narcissistic level of violent humor…often perpetrated at children.  There is one would-be hilarious scene where Schneider line-drives a 10-year-old pitcher right in the chest.  The zealot-like audience I was with roared with laughter...at what I have no idea.  Well, they seemed to laugh at the sight of the kid knocked unconscious to the ground while Schneider paraded around the bases heroically.  Honestly, is a child being maimed into a coma inherently funny?  On top of that, what is funny about a child being forced – beyond his will – to have another child fart directly on his open mouth?  Call me a staunch conservative, I guess, 'cause that ain't funny.  I pity people that laugh at these sights.  Call me an intellectual snob if you want.

This film feels like it was written by a child that has not even learned the alphabet yet.  The writers' concepts of what they think an audience will laugh at are sort of disturbing.  There is, I think, a difference between a film being unapologetically dumb (i.e. – AIRPLANE) and a film that is just plain dumb period.  The laughs in THE BENCHWARMERS are targeted at an age group that has not yet developed pubic hair, much of the laughs are directed at regions of the body that include pubic hair and other forms of bodily fluids, and the rest of the jokes are a woefully desperate attempt to tell the world that – gosh darn it – endless gags about passing gas, chronic saliva spewing, and a homosexual nymphomaniac are a riot.  This film is one big a-bomb of suckage.

THE BENCHWARMERS is not offensively appalling and awful to warrant my dreaded zero stars rating (only films that include a woman having a penis for a nose due to a congenital birth defect as featured in DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO deserve that low merit).  However, it’s not too far away from being just as nauseating an experience.  I can count on one hand how many times I chuckled throughout the film.  Three times to be exact.  The third and final giggle occurred during the film’s closing end credit bloopers.  We see two of the leads talk to one another and one finally says, “This is a big waste of time.”  Is this a line from a deleted scene or an admission of tragic guilt on the actor’s part?  It must have been the latter.

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