Friday, June 27, 2014

der Bankdrückers

If the scheduling feature of Blogger works, you’ll be reading this while I’m at the “No Girls Allowed Campout.”  You may recall my experience from last year.  You may not.  I certainly do, and so do my boys.  We’re looking forward to it.

Athos, Porthos, and Aramis

In honor of the NGAC, I’d like to look at the movie Benchwarmers today.  If nothing else, it proves that if  you’re friends with Adam Sandler, you can have your movie made.  Netflix suggested 2 stars for us and ordinarily that would be true, but this “film” had a lot more going for it than you might think.

First off, the title tells you exactly what you are going to see.  It’s a sports movie about underdogs/nerds/geeks getting the best of the dumb jocks.  The only question is which sport – until you see the poster.  There is absolutely no need for a logline.  But if you read the logline, you know the entire story.

The theme of Benchwarmers is that bullying is wrong.  As a parent I can totally support that message and it’s at the heart of some great films – like The Karate Kid and Schindler’s List.  Then there’s the fact that about 25 baseball games got compressed into less time than it usually takes to watch one (and it had upbeat music) so it’s kind of like watching a highlights reel.

The characters in this film are the same ones we’ve seen in every geek revenge story ever, there is no surprise arc or deep development.  The purpose of everyone is to make us laugh in the simplest way possible – farting in faces, spitting in faces, putting bugs in faces, atomic wedgies, and spoofing agoraphobia.  Oddly, in this movie it worked.  You need to think “kids movie where half of the kid’s roles are played by adults.”  Unless, of course, you don’t think that Rob Schneider and David Spade are adults…

We ended up enjoying the movie and probably because #3 and #4 were laughing so hard we sort of got infected by it.  It’s not Major League but it doesn’t pretend to be and that’s what makes it work.  Everything is right out there in front of you.  The dialogue is terrible, there are no actual challenges for the characters to overcome (or arc – nobody changes at all), and the story is about as dense as a cheeseball.  Yet despite that, it’s the first David Spade film I’ve actually thought he was funny in.

But there were problems, despite the “fun” attitude and positive theme.  The biggest thing for me was when Gus lies to his wife.  It came out of nowhere and served absolutely no purpose in the story.  The “pay-off scene” was a robot editing newspapers – not much of a laugh – which meant that there was no consequence to his action.  “Hey, Kids.  Bullying is wrong, but it’s okay to lie to people when you feel like it.”

The second thing was how women were portrayed.  With films like Hunger Games and Divergent and Frozen topping the weekend box offices, it wasn’t surprising that my daughter had no interest in this movie.  There were only 2 female characters and neither was written with any depth.  In fact, all they did was gush over their man and worry about biological clocks.  There’s a series of scenes with kids playing the part of sports commentators and one of them is a girl but she didn’t say a word.  Not one.  That’s inexcusable.  It’s not how the world is.  I’m not saying that the movie would have been better, but it would have been more interesting.

Do I recommend it?  If you’re a boy between the ages of 8 and 15 you’ll like it.  Beyond that?  Depends how well you relate to boys that age.  I laughed out loud a dozen times.

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