Welcome to Adam SandlerWorld, where groins are for kicking, gas is for passing, jokes are to be choked and jocks are for sniffing.
It’s a happy, stupid planet where director Dennis Dugan (“Problem Child,” “Big Daddy”) enjoys the status of a Hitchcock, and Sandler himself no longer needs to make an appearance. He can hire proxy Sandlers like David Spade (career … OVER) and Jon Heder, who proves that his booger-and-bug-eating skills were ignored in “Napoleon Dynamite.”
“The Benchwarmers,” the latest from Sandler’s “Happy Madison” production banner, severely tests the maxim that “There’s no such thing as a bad movie about baseball.” It’s dopey, crude and lowbrow, but harmless.
Spade and Heder are two virginal nerds whose lifetime of getting picked on is avenged when they join their pal, Gus (Rob Schneider), for a three-on-nine baseball scrimmage against some Little League bullies, and Gus single-handedly crushes them.
And how sad does a movie have to be for Rob Schneider to be “the cool one,” “the normal one” and “the jock?”
Mel (Jon Lovitz, all jowls and lame lines delivered with his still lethally funny timing) spies them. “I’m just one of those nerds who grew up … to make billions.” You see, not all nerds grow up to be film critics. OK, TV critics.
Mel sponsors a “Build a new ballpark” tourney featuring the three “benchwarmers” against the best adolescent baseball teams in the region, and Nerd Nation tunes in (on the Web) to see their humiliation avenged.
Figure on maybe a dozen laughs here, with the first being that David Spade has an even dorkier haircut than usual. His trash talk and put-downs are vintage Spade.
“Yeah, you look like you’d be a good catcher – of donuts in your mouth.”
Heder adds a sweet, sweet helmet and knee-pads to his Napoleon D. persona. He’s a paperboy/mama’s boy. Spade plays a video store clerk with an agoraphobic brother (Nick Swardson) who’s afraid of the sun. A laugh or two there.
The heroes are drilled by Reggie Jackson. The villains are drawn from TV’s ranks of jocks and pretend-jocks – Craig Kilborn, ESPN’s Dan Patrick (in the worst wig) and others.
“Why doncha go work on your science projects, nerds?!”
Would’ve been funnier to have these faux jocks “outed” as nerdy, once bullied, the last picked for PE softball.
Because there’s a message, even though the movie doesn’t have the guts to get at it. Bullying, always broader and funnier in the movies than it was on the bus or playground, has consequences.
But if flatulence, crotch-kicks, tequila-benders and nerd revenge are your thing, by all means, hie thee to a multiplex. It’s funnier than “Larry the Cable Guy.”
1 star (out of 5)
Cast: Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilbourn.
Directors: Dennis Dugan.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Industry rating: PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, and for language.