May 12, 2006 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Film | May 12, 2006 |


When I was around 12, a boney-ass, pimpled little leaguer with large, purple-tinted frameless glasses and a gun for an arm (and by gun, I mean of the homemade-potato variety - explosive but erratic), I managed to find myself on second base in the 9th inning of the final game of one of those regional baseball tournaments. In fact, I believe I was on a team named after a local veneer plant, one in which my toothless grandmother worked for barely minimum wage, just enough to afford the rent on her dilapidated trailer home and a few cans of snuff that she would often spit into a cup before offering her “sugar,” by which she meant something approaching a kiss of the French variety - no tongue, but maybe a little second-hand smokeless tobacco that I’d get to savor for the next several hours (god, don’t you love the South).

Anyway, I was standing on second base when the number-eight hitter steps up to the plate and manages to get one of those closed-eye dribbling singles number-eight hitters are so prone to hitting and I took off for third, rounding toward home knowing that - with two outs - the number nine hitter didn’t have the blind-luck of the previous batter and I’d have to score to bring my fellow teammates to victory. Unfortunately, the right fielder also had himself a cannon for an arm and managed to throw a strike to home plate, leaving a solid 30 feet of base path between myself and a catcher holding the ball with the arrogant, cocksureness of a 12-year-old who’d just nailed my sister. So, I did what any number-seven hitter in my situation would do: I threw a knee up when sliding into home plate, a knee that would knock that goddamn smile of that kid’s face and replace it with a broken nose and half a pint of blood. Naturally, he did what any half-conscious candidate for rhinoplasty would do, and he dropped the ball; me, I reached through his writhing legs to touch home plate and score my team’s winning run, much to the pleasure of my teammates, who stepped over that poor, miserable schlub to help me celebrate our victory. It was a fine day for a number-seven hitter, whose major goal in any little league game was to milk a walk and hope to stay on base long enough for the leadoff hitter to drive me in, and my coach congratulated me on remembering the fundamentals of the game, by which he meant: Those of you with little talent have always got your knees.

And, wouldn’t you know it, nearly two decades later, I’ve finally learned what Carson Daly has tried so arduously to teach us all: Karma, dear readers, is a bitch. If I’d known that one day I’d be falsely imprisoned in a darkened theater (by myself, cause god knows no one else was going to show up) and forced Kubrick-style to sit through a movie starring not only Deuce Bigelow but also Joe (mother-fucking) Dirt, I’d have let that portly catcher tag my ass out and nail my sister again, never mind that that winning score was the highlight of my goddamn little-league career. Hell, I’d have taken the broken nose myself if I’d known it would’ve prevented the viewing of this travesty, an insipid, sophomoric hybrid between The Bad News Bears and Revenge of the Nerds, only without the talent and élan of fucking Curtis “Booger” Armstrong or the winsome debonair of Robert “Skolnick” Carradine.

Here is the crux of what you need to know about Benchwarmers: The opening scene features Clark (Jon Heder), a newspaper delivery boy who, after his bicycle breaks down, carries on a conversation with Gus (Rob Schneider) while he roots around in his nose for a good 30 seconds before pulling out a goddamn nose goblin, and instead of flicking it, as Gus suggested, he 1) smells it, and 2) pops it into his maw. Cut to scene number two: Before the chubby son of Mel (Jon Lovitz) is kicked off the baseball field by the local teenaged bullies, they strap him down to the ground and provide him with some “beef stew,” and by beef stew, I mean another fat kid sits over his face and farts, to which Mel’s son replies, “It didn’t taste as bad as I thought it would.”

Good night, everyone! Thanks for coming out. Have a safe trip home.

Wait! Before you leave, a piece of advice to all of you aspiring monks out there: Next time you commit the cardinal sin of coveting your neighbor’s wife, go and see Benchwarmers. Trust me here: As it turns out, you can fit seven years of hair-shirt wearing self-flagellating penance into just under an hour and twenty-five minutes.

Oh fuck it — A plot summary for all of you self-hating masochists: After the fat kid is fed his “beef stew,” Richie (David Spade), Clark, and Gus take the field and challenge the local bullies to a scrimmage, which they actually manage to win, in no small part because Gus has some actual talent and perhaps because they are 30 years older than their opponents. Fresh off that high, they enter a tournament orchestrated by Mel, the billionaire owner of a company named after the sticky substance that forms around an uncircumcised penis (“Schmegma,” a word used more times in this movie than in all of 9th grade combined). The tournament pits the three benchwarmers against all of the area’s little league teams in a struggle to win ownership of a new baseball field modeled after Fenway, Wrigley, and Yankee Stadiums called, appropriately, Schmegma Field. It is thus left to the Benchwarmers to take a stand against those bully demons that have fought so hard against them since their days as junior-high classmates (never mind that Heder is a full decade plus younger than Spade and Schneider). And, as they pull off unimaginable victory after victory, they begin to develop a nerd-following comprised of dorky 12-year-olds with an unhealthy obsession with D & D, Star Wars, and their mother’s cooking, all of which leads them to the ultimate showdown against Jerry “The Fairy’s” (Craig “Nice Career Choice, Dumbass” Kilborn) little-league team.

But no Happy Madison production could go off without some ridiculous plot contrivance to create conflict, and it is here that we learn that Gus wasn’t actually the recipient of bully taunts growing up; instead, it is discovered that Gus was actually the inflictor of years of psychological torment, which led, among other things, to the institutionalization of a midget. All the little people say, “Heeeey. Hooo. Heeeey. Hooo.” Thankfully (spoiler alert!) the midget accepts Gus’ apology before the championship and the game can go on as planned. Or does it? Will the Benchwarmers sail to victory and finally proffer Jerry “The Fairy” the comeuppance he has so long deserved, or will rag-tag team of nerds and dorks fail in their efforts but pull out a rousing moral victory, one in which the nerdy adults win the affections of hot, blond models? Or, perhaps, addle-brained director Denis Dugan (Big Daddy, Saving Silverman will steer the film into darker, more psychological territory, forcing all the little leaguers to sit through hours and hours of “The Showbiz Show with David Spade.”

You’ll just have to pay the price of admission to find out.

No you won’t. Scenario #2 wins the day, and Napoleon Dynamite gets to make out with Rachel Hunter. See, I saved you $10; now you can use it to buy a goddamn hair shirt.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.

The Benchwarmers / Dustin Rowles

Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()






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