I’d be a bold-faced liar if I didn’t admit from the outset that I had no expectations whatsoever for The Benchwarmers. After looking over the cast, premise, and trailers, all I could was shrug my shoulders, head for the theater, and smuggle in my flask. Okay, maybe two for three. But to my shock, The Benchwarmers is not as unwatchable as one would expect – and this is coming from someone who detests Napoleon Dynamite, is tired of David Spade, and could do without Rob Schneider any given day. So what gives?
Gus (Schneider), Richie (Spade), and Clark (Heder) are buddies who are seemingly content with their dorkiness. Gus operates his own landscaping business, Richie works at the local video store, and Clark is the neighborhood paperboy. After witnessing a group of bullying baseball jocks harassing young Nelson (Max Prado), the trio decides to form their own team in honor of their loser brethren. Gus can hit the long ball, but Richie and Clark have no discernible skills whatsoever. With help from Nelson’s billionaire father, Mel (Lovitz), the team makes a splash across town while delivering their peaceful message.
The film takes an all-or-nothing approach, throwing gags at us at a dizzying clip. All of the signature Sandler (his production company financed the project) humor is on display, so be prepared for numerous instances of farts and projectile vomit. The screenplay overall misses far more than it hits, but it is actually the fun supporting cast that lifts the film out of certain comedic hell. Jon Lovitz is hilarious as the gazillionaire father of young Nelson, muttering such deadpan lines as “keep the cost under a billion, it’s all I have…on me.” The fact that his car is Kit from Knight Rider is hilarious on its own. Cameos are aplenty with appearances by Reggie Jackson, Tim Meadows, Bill Romanowski, Dan Patrick, and an absolutely uproarious turn for ESPN NFL analyst Sean Salisbury. Where did this come from?
The leads are either hilarious or torturous, depending on your taste. Rob Schneider tones things down and actually comes off as quite likable. David Spade can play this character in his sleep, and he pretty much does. Jon Heder continues his journey as the most one-note actor in Hollywood, this time portraying Napoleon Dynamite as a booger-eating mama’s boy with explosive bowel movements and a taste for macaroni and cheese. They all get enough laughs to keep things from completely falling apart at the seams, but rest assured that fans of each actor will find plenty to enjoy.
The Benchwarmers is a fine example of a film where your tolerance level for this kind of humor can be easily tested by watching the trailer. It’s stupid and groan-inducing, but I’ve seen it pulled off far worse than this. At a neat and tidy eighty minutes, those who know what they are getting into will more than likely walked away pleased with their fill of “beef stew” farts, oddball characters, and gorgeous women who would never hang out with such losers. Oh no, I think I just gave Happy Madison Productions their next project idea.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 80 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, and for language.
Theatrical Release: April 7, 2006
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Allen Covert & Nick Swardson.
Cast: Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilborn, Molly Sims