The Benchwarmers

| April 11, 2006

A movie like The Benchwarmers makes you wonder what kind of incriminating evidence Rob Schneider has on Adam Sandler. Does he have pictures of Sandler cheating on his wife? Or snorting lines off a dead transvestite hooker? Does he have proof that links Sandler to 9/11? It must be something big because Schneider somehow is able to keep on starring in horribly-written, directed and acted films which are bankrolled by “Big Daddy” himself. This time, he enlists the help of two people on Schneider’s level of D-minus comedy–David Spade and Jon (I-got-famous-by-acting-exhausted-in-Napoleon-Dynamite) Heder.
The trio play losers who have spent their lives being tormented by jocks. When they witness a typical jock-on-nerd crime, they do the only sensible thing: play baseball against the 12-year-olds for field superiority. Funded by a nerdy billionaire (Jon Lovitz), the three challenge every little league team to this baseball battle royale. Strangely, no one seems to mind that these adults go out of their way to pummel sixth graders on the diamond. In fact, the community shows a disturbingly strong interest in watching such competition, including the jock-jerk coaches (played by Craig Kilbourn, Sean Salisbury, Tim Meadows and Bill Romanowski), a bizarre love interest for Spade and Schneider’s wife (Molly Sims) whose hopes for children are dashed as her husband shows more interest in the growing competition than her. That’s right. Schneider would rather play with young men than having sex with his supermodel wife. Fortunately, Schneider’s character is a veritable Roy Hobbs when it comes to playing baseball against children, so perhaps he’s simply better at ballin’ in-between the bases than in-between the sheets.
It’s tough to criticize The Benchwarmers attempt at juvenile humor. No one in their right mind would consider Sandler-produced fare–where Grandma’s Boy writers/stars Allen Covert and Nick Swardson helmed the script–necessarily high brow entertainment. The bigger problem is that this is still an excruciatingly unwatchable film with a shallow message.
The obvious aim of The Benchwarmers is to tap into the nerd-righteous vein of pop culture. A world where all athletes are horrible, horrible people who have given up on searching for any sort of redemption through their behavior. Where jocks spend their free time performing random acts of cruelty on anyone with glasses like some sort of steroid-enhanced Khmer Rouge campaign. And where nerds bide their time until they can rise up against their physically-superior oppressors in an act which invokes images of the Black Civil Rights or Polish Solidarity movements. It’s an aspect of American society which makes Napoleon Dynamite a cult classic (speaking of which, if Heder’s performance is indicative of future schtick, perhaps he should stick with the Mormon missionary thing). We root for the nerd because we want to identify with our inner dork, the part inside each of us which has its own pocket protector. But due to total incompetence from producer to writer to director to actor to distribution company, The Benchwarmers fails to make a connection to its audience’s inner nerd. Being a benchwarmer myself–one who preferred watching “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” on PBS than walk the requisite fifteen yards outside my home to the park–I should have been someone who could sympathize with Heder’s attempt at catching a fly ball (instead he picks his nose and eats bugs). Instead, I found myself cheering for the jocks because although I’m a nerd, the dorks had it coming.

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