The Benchwarmers (2006) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude humor and language
Running Time: 80 min.
Cast: Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilborn, Molly Sims, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Erinn Bartlett, Amaury Nolasco, Bill Romanowsky, Sean Salisbury, Reggie Jackson, Terry Crews, Dennis Dugan, Brooke Langton, Lochlyn Munro, Rachel Hunter (cameo), Dan Patrick (cameo), James Earl Jones (voice)
Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenplay: Allen Covert, Nick Swardson
The tagline for The Benchwarmers reads, "It's never too late to take a stand", and if it were up to me, I'd add, "...and walk out of the theater" to the end of it.
Mouth agape, I sat in astonishment at just how abysmally awful The Benchwarmers is, easily one of the worst films of 2006. Although the script is credited to comedian/actors Allen Covert (Eight Crazy Nights) and Nick Swardson (Malibu's Most Wanted), I'll bet my last dollar that anything resembling a finished script didn't exist at the time the cameras started to roll. Proof of this comes at the end of the movie, which shows some deleted scenes and alternative takes that have the characters dishing out gags with wholly different dialogue than that which we saw earlier in the film. These scenes are mere padding in a paltry 80 minute long film, just beefing up the running length, adding further insult to injury for any in the audience too stunned by the train wreck that is this movie to leave their seats. Ironically, they are also no worse than any of the scenes that actually did make the final cut,
I'm hard-pressed to come up with a plotline, as there doesn't appear to be one. Basically, the premise involves three adult men that, for reasons that aren't really made clear, play baseball against young children in some sort of national little league, and they become heroes for all of the kids that are outcasts, dorks or mentally deficient.
Dennis Dugan (Big Daddy, National Security) directs, but he's absolutely clueless, as is just about everyone else responsible for what little conception may have been involved in the making of this fiasco. There aren't any situations or scenes that merit a chuckle in and of themselves, so what do they do to make this a comedy? What lowbrow comedies usually do -- gross us out with scenes of flatulence, belching, nose picking, and gratuitous slapstick. When titty-twisters are employed, not once, but over a dozen times, it only shows how bereft of ideas this swill really is.
Of course, they can't have one nonstop fart to fill the running length with, although they do give it a valiant effort, so they throw in a virtual kitchen sink of random "funny" characters and gags, none of which feel like they belong in this movie. From 80s kitsch to agoraphobics to goofy haircuts to talking robots to zany old guys, it's all in there to try to squeeze out every precious chuckle, each joke device more desperate than the last. The final straw to break this god-awful film's back comes in the form of some nausea-inducing serious romantic developments late in the movie (does every loser have a hot babe girlfriend?), while distasteful exploitation of people with mental or physical difficulties are disguised in a half-assed effort to embrace them as worthy people, all the while insulting them for humor value.
Even baseball fans will be sorely disappointed in how the game is depicted, with almost no adherence to any known rules (the Benchwarmers only field three players), while the games themselves have no real rooting interest, concocted merely to show more pratfalls, players getting injured, and bats flying out of the park into vehicles or people. It's fantasy hogwash, making absolute zero sense, and insulting to anyone that cares anything about narrative cohesiveness, story development, or even just funny escapism.
At the end, some vastly overreaching tripe posing as a moral backbone is unleashed, making an already excruciating film downright intolerable, It does answer the question on many people's minds about whether Schneider (Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, 50 First Dates) or Spade could actually make worse films than they already have. The Benchwarmers is the worst baseball film I've ever seen in my lifetime. It doesn't even deserve a place in the dugout -- it should be banned from the game with no chance of reinstatement.
©2006 Vince Leo