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Dennis Dugan
Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Craig Kilborn, Molly Sims, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Erinn Bartlett, Amaury Nolasco, Bill Romanowski, Reggie Jackson
Writing Credits:
Allen Covert, Nick Swardson

It's Never Too Late Too Take A Stand.

For anyone who's ever been picked on, put down or pushed around, your heroes are here! Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder star as three older guys who know what it's like to be bullied. After catching some nasty neighborhood kids picking on a friend's son, they strike back by forming a three-man baseball team to challenge the state's best Little Leaguers. Now, cheered on by every nerd, geek and misfit in town, these underdogs are about to have a field day in this slapstick hit comedy from the director of Big Daddy and Happy Gilmore and producer Adam Sandler.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$19.656 million on 3274 screens.
Domestic Gross
$57.651 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Thai Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 85 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 7/25/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Dennis Dugan
• Audio Commentary with Actors David Spade and Jon Heder
• “Nerds Vs. Bullies” Featurette
• “Mr. October” Featurette
• “Play Ball” Featurette
• “Who’s On Deck?” Featurette
• Four Deleted Scenes
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Benchwarmers (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 10, 2006)

Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder have all played the lead in films over the years, but I wouldn’t consider any of them to be real top-drawer material. Don’t take that as a criticism of their talents; I just see them as more qualified to take on supporting parts. 2006’s The Benchwarmers puts them somewhere in between the two poles. None of the three guys is clearly a support performer here, but none of them truly take the lead either.

A group of adolescent athletic bullies harasses some nerdy kids when the latter try to play baseball. Gus (Schneider) comes to their rescue and also remembers how much he loves to play the game. He recruits his dorky pals Richie (Spade) and Clark (Heder) to have a little fun on the diamond.

When there, the bullies come along again and demand that the adults leave the field. Gus says they’ll play for it, and although Clark and Richie are hopeless as athletes, Gus’s skills more than compensate, so they trounce the kids. This inspires Nelson (Max Prado), one of the abused boys, and he tells his dad, billionaire Mel Shmegmer (Jon Lovitz).

Millionaire sets up a tournament in which the three “benchwarmers” play against the state’s meanest squads. The film follows their run through the teams and how it elevates the nerds of the world. Inevitable complications come along with the personal stories of the main characters.

Benchwarmers comes from Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s production arm. Most of that company’s flicks essentially field like Sandler farm team efforts. Other than Sandler’s absence, there’s little to differentiate these flicks from the ones that star the man himself.

That means these flicks are just as inconsistent as most of Sandler’s efforts. Benchwarmers may actually be the most up and down of the bunch. The movie combines a few fairly funny bits with some absolutely dreadful moments.

Within the first four minutes of the film, we see a character pick his nose and eat it and another participant farts directly in the face of a prone child. I don’t like this kind of gross-out material, and the movie indulges in that stuff way too often.

On the other hand, it can provide some pretty clever and amusing moments. I liked the Lovitz character with his “nerd gone big-time” lifestyle. It’s fun to see him indulge his childhood fantasies as he drives KITT from Knight Rider and the Batmobile. The actors also manage to occasionally throw out good bits, and the movie tosses out enough attempts at humor to make a few stick.

But damn, is it inconsistent. I would literally go from laughing to cringing within seconds, as the film simply shoots itself in the foot on consistent occasions. It also indulges in a lot of fairly cruel moments in the way it treats unusual people. The flick wants to have its cake and eat it too. On one hand, it tries to tell us to be tolerant of all kinds of people, but on the other, it still wants to mock them and laugh at them. This trend runs through a lot of Sandler films and just doesn’t work.

Benchwarmers also fails to present any real characters, with the possible exception of Gus. He’s the only one who gets any sort of true arc. Sure, Richie and Clark mature, but they do so in a simple, comic way. Gus has to confront his past in a more dynamic fashion, though the movie still doesn’t exactly make him three-dimensional. Heck, I’m not even sure he qualifies as two-dimensional; he’s more than one-and-a-half-dimensional.

At least he’s not just there as comic fodder. Heder does little more than a variation on Napoleon Dynamite, and Spade mostly sticks with his usual sarcastic shtick. Schneider plays the straight man and doesn’t get a weird character. That’s a departure for him since most of his flicks cast him as freaks of some sort. He does surprisingly fine in the part, though I’m not sure I accept him as some sort of super athlete.

I admit I went into The Benchwarmers with very low expectations, and the movie often lived down to them. However, it occasionally managed some amusing bits. There’s a lot of chaff among the wheat, but at least those moments redeem the more appalling ones.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

The Benchwarmers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the movie itself, this was an inconsistent transfer.

Sharpness was the main problem. Close-ups looked fine, but some of the rest of the movie came across as moderately ill-defined. Edge enhancement created some of these problems, as I noticed rather prominent haloes at times. The general impression the transfer left was of a sporadically soft image. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed a few specks.

Colors looked a little runny at times, but they usually seemed fine. The flick stayed with a natural palette that mostly was pretty clear and clean. Blacks were acceptably deep, but shadows tended to appear somewhat muddy and heavy. Too much of the movie seemed messy and murky to me. I didn’t think a brand-new flick like this should present such mediocre visuals

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Benchwarmers failed to present similar flaws, but it also didn’t demonstrate many strengths. That’s because it was a decidedly low-key affair. Not much happened to bring the soundfield to life. Music offered reasonably good stereo imaging. Effects played a minor role. They added some specifics at times, mainly during the baseball scenes, but they didn’t add a ton to the proceedings. The surrounds broadened the spectrum in a moderate way at most.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no problems with the dialogue. Effects were clear and accurate, even if they did stay in the background. A few scenes like big home run blasts popped the subwoofer to life. Music consistently seemed good as well. This was a serviceable soundtrack.

As for the extras, we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Dennis Dugan in the form of a running, screen-specific discussion. Dugan goes over the cast and their work, locations, visual issues like CG, and sets.

Like the movie itself, Dugan’s commentary is erratic. It comes with a few decent insights such as information about improvised lines and other character issues, but the director also subjects us to a lot of banality. He frequently does little more than tell us the names of actors and how much he likes them. Dugan even recognizes this tendency in himself, but he still does it anyway. The commentary tells us a little about the flick but sticks us with too much lackluster content to make it a genuinely worthwhile discussion.

For the second track, we get notes from actors David Spade and Jon Heder, both of whom sit together for their own running, screen-specific piece. They discuss… not a whole heck of a lot. They give us a few notes about their work on the set and general anecdotes about their activities. This means lots of joking around and very little concrete information.

To a degree, that’s fine. In particular, Spade throws out a fair amount of amusing barbs as he makes the track generally enjoyable. However, we have to suffer through a lot of praise for the flick in addition to the fact we just don’t learn much. It’s a painless listen with occasional moments of merriment but not a memorable chat.

Four featurettes follow. Nerds Vs. Bullies goes for five minutes, 44 seconds as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from Spade, Heder, writer/co-producer/co-writer Nick Swardson, and actors Rob Schneider, Jon Lovitz, Reggie Jackson, Amaury Nolasco, Alex Warrick, Tim Meadows, Bill Romanowski, and Craig Kilborn. They talk about whether they were nerds or bullies as kids and their thoughts about the topic. It’s not an especially interesting program, and it sure doesn’t tell us anything useful.

A focus on Reggie Jackson comes in the eight-minute and 10-second Mr. October featurette. We get notes from Schneider, Lovitz, Nolasco, Jackson, Dugan, Heder, Spade, and actors Sean Salisbury, Max Prado, and Molly Sims. The various participants gush about how much they love Reggie, which Jackson tells us how he came onto the film and how he worked as an actor. He also chats about his childhood training. Reggie’s parts offer some decent insight; it can be interesting to find out how a non-actor goes into these things. However, there’s not much depth on display, as the show usually stays with fluffiness.

Play Ball runs six minutes and two seconds as it presents Heder, Swardson, Kilborn, Nolasco, Romanowski, Dugan, Salisbury, Meadows, Jackson, Sims, Schneider, Lovitz, and Spade. The participants chat about their feelings toward baseball. As with “Nerds”, you won’t learn much about the film. It’s a general program without much to make it worthwhile.

For the final featurette, we get the two-minute and 38-second Who’s On Deck? It includes nothing more than a montage of “Howie” scenes. What’s the point? I’m not sure, but if you really dig “Howie”, then this is the place for you.

Four Deleted Scenes run between 12 seconds and 62 seconds. These fill a total of two minutes, 41 seconds. That ain’t much, and you’ll not find anything memorable in these snippets. “Rod and Beans” and “Talk of the Truck Stop” let us see a little more of Gus’s wife, but they don’t offer much for her to do. “Bad Reggie” shows the Hall of Famer’s punishment for mailbox destruction, while “Ball Sweatin’ Goldies” is a brief shot of a disgruntled video store customer. All four scenes are painless, and all are forgettable.

At the start of the disc, we get a collection of ads. These include clips for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Open Season and The Pink Panther (2006). Those three also appear in the Previews domain along with promos for Monster House, RV, Fun With Dick and Jane, Big Daddy, Joe Dirt, Ultraviolet, the “James Bond Ultimate Collection” and The Princess Bride. No trailer for Benchwarmers appears here.

Fans of Adam Sandler’s work will probably dig The Benchwarmers. It doesn’t star the actor, but it sticks with his usual MO as it mixes clever moments with crass ones. This leaves it as terribly erratic and only sporadically amusing. The DVD comes with inconsistent picture as well. It provides adequate audio along with a decent set of extras. This is a rental for those who enjoy the Sandler style of comedy.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1162 Stars Number of Votes: 43
3 3:
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