Rob Schneider stars in quality work, doesn’t he?
Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, financer of such Schneider classics as “The Animal” and both “Deuce Bigalow” movies, has a reputation to keep. Never mind messing around with social relevance or witty writing – kicking a guy in the crotch or farting on a kid’s face is as tour de force as he gets.
In this world, comedians like Jon Lovitz, Tim Meadows and Terry Crews are bonafide thespians, and the words “from the director of ‘Big Daddy’ ” awaken feelings of euphoria, not imminent suicide. Alas, the products of this world are misunderstood and ostracized in the buzzkill that is cinematic reality. Their latest product, “The Benchwarmers,” is no different.
Schneider plays the lead in a role clearly written for Sandler. He’s Gus, a landscaper who has a thing against playground bullies. When he sees a group of misfit kids get picked on by some meanies, he teams up with his two friends Clark (Jon Heder, “Napoleon Dynamite”) and Richie (David Spade, “Tommy Boy”) to form a baseball team to challenge the mean kids to a game of 3-on-9.
Billionaire and “ex-nerd” Mel (Jon Lovitz, “The Stepford Wives”) steps in to organize a regional tournament in which the winner gets a brand-new baseball stadium.
Can the team of misfits prove its worth to hostile fans? Will the meanies learn the value of sportsmanship? Will Rob Schneider break out the “you-can-do-it” line? So much intrigue .
You know there are actually some fools out there saying, “Wow, this film must be really bad if Sandler himself won’t even star in it.” Well, you see, Sandler is a busy man. His production company receives dozens of excellent scripts, but as otherworldly as Sandler is, he can’t possibly star in all of the films. So I guess you’ll just have to excuse him for keeping those borderline-acceptable projects (“Spanglish,” “Punch-Drunk Love”) while passing off crap like “Joe Dirt,” “The Hot Chick” and now “The Benchwarmers” to his buddies.
This one tries hard to be a sweet movie and avoid the usual mean-spirited humor a typical Schneider/Sandler movie overflows with. It fails. There’s just something about destroying mailboxes with a baseball bat and eating boogers that doesn’t exactly scream wholesome family fun.
Of the three leads, only Spade manages a couple of laughs, employing his trademark one-liner schtick that worked so well on “Saturday Night Live.” For the most part, though, he’s terrible, as is Heder, who proves once again that “Napoleon Dynamite” was an accident of marginal quality that he intends never to commit again. And Schneider? How does he still get work?
No one involved escapes “The Benchwarmers” unscathed, least of all Sandler. Sure, you can hide out in a semi-legit movie (the upcoming “Click,” maybe?) under Kate Beckinsale’s halo, but we all know you were behind this. And we won’t soon forget.
Rating: 1/2 star out of 5
At the Showcase and Quality 16