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Gigglin' at Garbage

'The Benchwarmers' is idiotic and gross--yet childishly funny

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Look, I'm willing to admit when garbage comedies make me laugh. I liked Billy Madison, Little Nicky ... heck, I even liked Freddy Got Fingered. So keep this in mind when you read this semi-positive review of director Dennis Dugan's latest visit to the cinematic sewer, The Benchwarmers.

Dugan has made some really bad movies (Problem Child, Saving Silverman) and one good flick (Happy Gilmore ... yeah, I liked that one, too). The Benchwarmers is probably his second-best. This is a comedy where two out of every five jokes are funny, but there are so many jokes that the laugh factor winds up being rather high. It has many things wrong with it (mainly Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder stinking up the place), but it also has a straight-faced, bold approach to bad taste that ultimately makes it a demented treat.

Rob Schneider plays Gus, a landscaper who is fed up with local bullies farting in nerd faces. He swings a decent bat and pitches like Tatum O'Neal in The Bad News Bears, so he challenges the bullies to a baseball game. He recruits his nerdish buddies (David Spade and Heder) to play alongside him, and they lay waste to many a Little League team.

Jon Lovitz gets what just might be his best role yet as a billionaire nerd grown-up who drives around in the Batmobile and decorates his lush mansion with the real Boba Fett and frozen Han Solo from The Empire Strikes Back. He digs what the grown-up nerds are doing to the bullies who farted on his nerd kid, so he starts a tournament (Little Baseballers vs. Three Old Guys), giving nerds a chance to root for their own kind.

The movie goes a bit too far in spots. While farts are funny, farting on somebody's face as they are being restrained and calling it beef stew is never, ever funny. That's just disgusting. Booger humor, especially when boogers are eaten, stopped being funny with Caddyshack.

Heder's man-child shtick gets old fast. The setup for the character is funny (I like the helmet) but the execution is, for the most part, a failure. He garners a couple of laughs, but I think Napoleon Dynamite 2: Still Napoleoning might be his best shot at maintaining future stardom, so he had better make a deal fast. Heder simply tries too hard while everybody around him sails along comfortably. Spade is funny in a bowl cut and pencil moustache, while Schneider actually does a fine job playing the straight man.

The movie is funniest when it goes completely off the rails and gets a little nutty in the head. Spade's character has a brother who thinks the sun is a monster, so he refuses to go outdoors and pees in two-liter soda bottles. His encounter with a couple of Girl Scouts is very funny, as is the moment where he must step up to the plate and take one for the team. The film's craziest moment has a "little man" traumatized by bullies living in his basement making peanut butter pterodactyl sculptures and hiding in a fort adorned with dolls. If you don't think that sounds funny, stay far away from this movie.

The film also features a middle-aged Dominican ringer on one of the Little League teams who claims to be 12 (he has a birth certificate written in green crayon) and guzzles beer and tequila on the mound.

The Benchwarmers is much funnier than last year's dull remake of The Bad News Bears, but plenty of jokes fall flat. Your ability to enjoy the film is contingent upon which jokes you choose to focus on--the good ones or the bad ones. It was late on a Friday night, and I was in the mood for laughter, so I left my brain at the door and had some good laughs.

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