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To properly set the stage for reviewing The Benchwarmers let me offer this: in the first three minutes of the movie there are gags about both nose-picking and farting in someone else’s face. If that’s just the first three minutes, imagine what can be done with the rest of the running time. Now take that imagination and go enjoy your time, which is better spent elsewhere; whatever you thought up is easily funnier than anything that appears in the movie.
Starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Jon Heder, Benchwarmers follows the simplistic story of a trio of misfits that play baseball against little kids in an effort to show how the nerds, misfits, and geeks of the world should be allowed to have fun on a baseball diamond too and don’t deserve to be picked on by jocks. As a bit of a misfit who was picked on in one point in my life I somewhat agree with the sentiment, but the SNL alumni and former Napoleon Dynamite star play nerds so out of touch with reality that even I would pick on these guys if I met them in real life.
That’s one of my problems with Benchwarmers, which somewhat follows the overused cliché of attempting to prove geeks are people too and can be just as good as the bad guys: these geeks really aren’t people, and the bad guys don’t need moustaches to twirl when they accomplish as much with an old fashioned titty-twister, which they do… ad nauseum… even to themselves when there isn’t a geek around to do it to. You don’t want to route for these characters. You kind of what to see them fail and return to their dismal lives where they wouldn’t take up time on a movie screen. At best these characters are over the top. At worst they are cringeworthy.
A lot of that is the cast’s fault, which is made up of “Saturday Night Live” low water marks and second stringers. David Spade follows the trend of his post-Farley career path by donning another weird wig and playing a loser. Jon Lovitz plays what is essentially one of his Simpsons characters brought to life – the nerd in high school who has become a millionaire and thus has the financial backing to support the tournament the characters enter while dressing his house in as many Star Wars and sci-fi references as possible, including the sole highlight of his character: his cars (K.I.T.T. and the Adam West Batmobile). Tim Meadows undoes all of the nice work he did in Mean Girls by playing yet another character with no schtick, but this time on the unbearable bad guy side. On the non-SNL side, Nick Swardson (“Reno 911”), who also provided co-writing duties, plays the albinoesque, agoraphobic brother to David Spade’s character, getting a few laughs from his fear of the sun and a splurting mayonnaise squeeze bottle, and Craig Kilborn seems to mock Greg Kinnear’s Bad News Bears performance from last year in another role to make people question why he gave up a cushy (and regular) host job. I won’t even begin to dig into the problems created by Jon Heder who either plays another rendition of Napoleon Dynamite who constantly wears a bicycle helmet, or Heder is actually Napoleon Dynamite and needs the helmet for his own protection. My money is on the latter.
Does it say something about the movie to say that Rob Schneider, star of such classics as Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo and The Animal gives the best performance of the movie? Of course, it’s completely unbelievable to think he’d be married to someone like Molly Sims, and outright impossible to think he’d rather play baseball with a bunch of misfits than have sex with the ovulating beauty, but I guess once you’ve pushed the plot as far as this movie has anything is possible. Schneider is, sadly, the highlight of the movie.
Because of the outlandish nature of the characters and the ridiculous storyline, Benchwarmers isn’t really the morality tale it could have been. The movie could have been a chance to show that nerds are people too, and that bullies eventually show regret for the torture they subject other people to in high school. While there is a brief touch of that second sentiment, the movie makes no effort to show these misfits as anything but characters who will never fit in. Abandon hope you little thirteen year old Star Wars geek – you’ll reach the age of thirty and still never have kissed a girl, just like David Spade’s character. You’ll never fit in with society, but you are entitled to have fun on a baseball field. Give me a break.
On many websites you’ll read critics grumbling about how The Benchwarmers wasn’t offered in an advance screening for critics. While this is a sure sign of the film’s quality, I tell those critics they should be thankful they were spared the hour and a half of high school quality acting (which isn’t really fair to high schoolers), fart jokes, and the humorous stylings that ruined “Saturday Night Live” for over a decade. Critics and viewers everywhere should write off Benchwarmers and hope these three actors never join together for another project again.