The good news about “The Benchwarmers” is that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The bad news is that it is still not a good movie. But then again, what good can possibly come from the combination of Rob Schneider, David Spade and director Dennis Dugan, never mind Jon Heder? The ads will tell you that Dugan directed “Happy Gilmore” and “Big Daddy.” What they won’t tell you is that he also directed “Saving Silverman” and “Beverly Hills Ninja.” There is no point in even dissecting the filmographies of the other actors. It will only end in tears. The bottom line is that this is a movie made for people with the sense of humor of a 10-year-old, but anyone who takes their 10-year-old to this movie will have to answer questions about ovulation cycles, blow-up dolls, peeing in the shower, guys with friends in nothing but a Speedo, and God knows what else. Get the picture? It’s made for kids, but it’s not appropriate for kids, much like a lot of the other junk out there. Can’t anyone make a movie like “Back to the Future” anymore?
The movie begins with professional lawn mower Gus (Schneider) and paperboy Clark (Heder) witnessing a group of smaller kids getting bullied on a baseball diamond. Nelson (Max Prado), one of the smaller kids, is humiliated big time, and the bullies run away before Gus and Clark can discipline them in any way. Nonetheless, the event itself inspires Gus and Clark to go out and play ball with their buddy Richie (David Spade, wearing the worst wig and moustache in movie history), which brings another confrontation with the same kids, who curiously are not afraid of the adults this time. The three adults – two of whom have never played baseball in their lives – challenge the kids to a game, where the winner gets to keep playing on the field. Despite being outnumbered, the grownups win solely on the talents of Gus, who is both a wicked pitcher and big time slugger. This, despite the fact that he’s played by Rob Schneider.
The story of the older kids’ attempt to defend the honor of the geeks gets back to Mel (Jon Lovitz), who happens to be both Nelson’s father and a former geek-turned billionaire. He comes up with a plan to finance a tournament between the three “adults,” now dubbed the Benchwarmers, and the other little league bullies. The winner claims a brand new stadium as their home turf. Along the way, Richie meets cute with a girl at the salad bar that would never, ever be working at a salad bar (we won’t even get into the product placement of Yum! Brands properties like Pepsi and Pizza Hut), while Gus has to come to terms with his own bullying past. The drama, the drama!
Please. You can already tell that the story is held together by strings, if not spider webs. The movie’s agenda is clear from the get-go, which is that all good athletes are arrogant bullies and all bad athletes are optimistic, supportive enablers. Nonsense. There are both in each camp, and while it’s easy to admire the message that the movie is trying to convey, does it need to also send the additional message that anyone who bullied you in your childhood is probably secretly gay? Again, this is a movie aimed at little kids, and you couldn’t possibly be sending them worse mixed messages than this, not with all the titty twisting that goes on. God, how did I not mention the titty twisting? Okay, are you with me now? There are more questions than answers in this movie, period. To Schneider’s credit, though, they make him look like he’s got a hell of a baseball swing.
There are scores of other fatal flaws with this movie, from the stuck-in-second-gear acting of Heder to former NFL demon Bill Romanowski once again playing the fruitcake (again, “The Longest Yard”; gayest, movie, ever). Apparently, this movie had been floating around in Hollywood for years, going back to the days when Chris Farley still lived, breathed, and binged. And while the concept of “The Benchwarmers” may have had the underdog potential that made “Happy Gilmore” such a success, the execution of it has Rob Schneider instead of Adam Sandler, and Craig Kilborn instead of the great Christopher McDonald. Check, please.(2 / 5)