No matter how bad a movie is, it can always be made worse with a cameo by Rob Schneider or David Spade. The films they actually STAR in, obviously, are even more alarming. So now imagine a film that stars BOTH of them. A film that was written by the same duo who wrote “Grandma’s Boy” and directed by the director of “Beverly Hills Ninja” and “Big Daddy.” Surely this hypothetical movie would be so bad, the cameras would burst into flames in the act of filming it.
“The Benchwarmers,” an up-with-nerds comedy that meets the qualifications I have just described, is not apocalyptically bad; it’s merely very bad. A grown man eats his own boogers and a bully farts directly in the face of another kid — and that’s just in the first five minutes. The rest of the movie is equally fond of bodily-function jokes, and if there’s a bad getting-hit-in-the-crotch gag, director Dennis Dugan hasn’t seen it.
Schneider, Spade and Jon Heder (aka Napoleon Dynamite), play Gus, Richie and Clark, three long-time friends who are guilty of varying degrees of geekiness. (How they all went to school together when two of the actors are 14 years older than the third, I don’t know.) Clark is a paperboy who acts suspiciously like Napoleon Dynamite (way to avoid that type-casting, Jon!), while Richie, with a pencil-thin mustache and bowl haircut, works at a video store and has never kissed a girl.
Gus is actually the most well-adjusted of the group, and you know you’re in trouble when Rob Schneider is the coolest guy in your circle of friends. He has a landscaping company and a hot wife (Molly Sims) who wants very badly to have a baby with him, and he also has some athletic ability.
That’s how he and the two nerds are able to start their own baseball team to compete against the Little League squads full of mean kids who pick on dorks like them. Gus is basically a one-man team against the entire league, considering Richie and Clark — his only two teammates — are utterly useless. Why not fill out their ranks with another six players, no matter how bad they might be? You know, maybe get some KIDS to play on their Little League team? Because watching children play baseball against each other isn’t funny, as you know from watching “Bad News Bears” last year. But watching ADULTS play against kids — now there’s comedy!
The Benchwarmers (as their team is called) is bankrolled by a man named Mel, a local billionaire who is played by Jon Lovitz in all his robust, loser glory. Truth be told, I laugh at nearly everything that comes out of Lovitz’s mouth, and he’s this film’s saving grace. His secret? Not trying so desperately to be funny.
Heder is another bright spot, booger-eating aside. He’s doing Napoleon, but Napoleon is still funny (though the clock is ticking on that). Like Lovitz, he seems comfortable and relaxed with the material, delivering a solid performance without overselling it.
Spade and Schneider, meanwhile, are at their smarmiest, doing the same shtick they’ve been doing for, what, 15 years now? Spade is snotty, Schneider is an “everyman”; you know the routine. They both have their moments, but Allen Covert and Nick Swardson’s screenplay doesn’t give them enough of them, focusing instead on the impossible plot (honestly, outside of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, how does a one-man team defeat a fully stocked one?) and the never-ending parade of scenes where people get hit with things. But hey, at least Adam Sandler doesn’t have a cameo.
D+ (1 hr., 20 min.; )