ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons recently wrote how he thought Jon Heder was at least six years away from starring in a movie with David Spade
and Rob Schneider
. A hair under two years seems about right to me. Napoleon Dynamite, Heder
’s big break, is amusing when you catch it playing remote roulette, so you can watch an absurd bit or two at a time, instead of as one, long shtick-ridden mess. With that said, Heder, with his impatient drawl and goofy charm, is a living, breathing recurring character.
So he’s perfect a fit for The Benchwarmers, the latest Saturday Night Live alumni comedy from Happy Gilmore, Adam Sandler
’s production company. Heder does his spaz routine, gets his laughs, and moves on. The same success applies for Schneider and Spade, two guys who should never shoulder a whole movie unless a studio exec has lost a bet. In The Benchwarmers, Schneider (never the world’s funniest actor) plays it straight, and Spade’s cutting remarks come at amusing intervals. The result is a movie with a nice number of laughs and an encouraging message. Article continues below
Gus (Schneider), Tommy (Spade), and Clark (Heder) are three neighborhood friends who, with the exception of Gus, don’t really have a lot going for them. Tommy works at a video store, has a bowl haircut, and is essentially living a more pathetic version of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Clark, always wearing a helmet and knee pads, is the world’s oldest paper boy aside from Chris Elliott.
When the trio comes to the aid of a nerdy kid hassled by some burly pre-teens, they wind up playing the bullies in a pick-up baseball game. Led by Gus’s impressive pitching and hitting, the men demolish the team. The same thing happens the next day, leading the tormented boy’s billionaire father (Jon Lovitz
) to come up with a plan: He wants the three adults to play in a baseball tournament against the county’s Little League teams to prove that geeks and weirdos can beat the jocks.
It sounds terrible, but it works because everything is in proportion, especially that the three leads’ comedic talents come in bite-sized portions. Still, writers Allen Covert and Nick Swardson
(the guys behind Grandma’s Boy) revel in their freak tendencies, whether it’s a basement-dwelling pariah making peanut butter eagles or Reggie Jackson smashing mailboxes. (And their take on the Danny Almonte controversy is hilarious.) If that kind of humor is your abode, then welcome home. But what makes The Benchwarmers redeemable over other kicked in the nuts fare is the writers care about the outcasts Gus, Tommy, and Clark play for. Covert and Swardson want these kids to learn what it’s like to play ball, to enjoy a game without being ridiculed.
… and if David Spade drop kicks a 12-year-old, even better.