Tuesday, April 18, 2006

'Benchwarmers' cracks the bat and a few laughs

What if nerds finally struck back at all those bullies who make their lives hell? What if the stakes are a new baseball park? What if somebody made a movie about it?

Those are the unlikely questions answered by the new film "The Benchwarmers," and if this isn't exactly Oscar material, well, sometimes you just need a silly movie to unwind with at the end of the day.

Gus (Rob Schneider) is a 30-something regular guy who runs his own business and is trying to start a family with his wife Liz (Molly Sims). He's pals with all the nerds in the neighborhood -- paperboy Clark (Jon Heder) and video store clerk Richie (David Spade).

When Gus sees a young kid getting picked on at the playground, he rushes over to stop it. Turns out the local little league team won't let the nerds practice on their field. So Gus challenges them to a game. He and the nerds win. They get to play on the field.

Into the mix rides, in both KITT and the Batmobile, wealthy former nerd Mel (Jon Lovitz). His kid was the one Gus saved from the bully. Mel offers his millions to build a baseball park to be used by everybody if The Benchwarmers (the nickname of Gus's nerd squad) can beat every little league team in the tournament.

And so it goes. Like I said, this film isn't up for any Academy Awards.

But that's OK, cause you laugh out loud a few times and there are some surprises. Turns out Schneider is a likeable straight man when he's not being forced to play the moron. Spade and Lovitz turn in amusing if forgettable performances.

The plot is terribly cliched and features virtually every potty joke you can think of, but it was a nice diversion for an hour and a half. The film never aspires to be anything else but what it is. And that, at least, is something.

I saw this movie after work yesterday. The theater was filled with several pre-teens and early teens home from school for the in-service. They shifted around in their seats, laughed at all the silly parts, whispered to each other and were generally obnoxious teenagers. Some things never change.

So, no, "The Benchwarmers" isn't going to challenge for Best Picture. It may not even be worth seeing as a matinee. But it was fun, it re-enforced some positive values and, heck, it's about baseball.

Not a bad way to blow a couple of hours between appointments.

"The Benchwarmers" is rated PG-13 for mild language and crass humor.

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