Dennis Dugan’s The Benchwarmers features a talking robot butler. If you’re wondering what a talking robot butler has to do with Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Jon Heder playing baseball against children, the answer is: absolutely nothing. Nonetheless, this latest fiasco from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions finds time amid crotch shots, booger-eating, and homophobic jokes to include a mechanical servant in its idiotic story—think Revenge of the Nerds crossbred with Bad News Bears—about three dorks who try to stand up for the little guy by competing against pre-teen hardball squads. And yet somehow, the ridiculous android isn’t even the film’s most nonsensical element, as that distinction goes to its attempts to pretend that twentysomething Heder (continuing to regurgitate his spastic Napoleon Dynamite shtick) is roughly the same age as fortysomethings Spade and Schneider. Or is it, on second thought, that Schneider’s athletic landscaper Gus would rather spend afternoons with his moronic friends than have sex with his hot wife Liz (played by supermodel Molly Sims)? Or what about the filmmakers’ lazy refusal to give Spade, Schneider, and Heder’s ballplayers any teammates, thereby making every game a three-versus-nine contest? Regardless, Dugan’s stinker is expertly designed to appeal to frat boys who are amused by titty twisters and the sight of bullies farting in grade schoolers’ faces, as well as those tickled by kitschy pop-culture references (there’s KITT, the Batmobile, and a Yoda statue!), pro athlete cameos and Sportscenter anchors expressing enthusiasm for man-on-man massages. Working with Allen Covert and Nick Swardson’s painfully formulaic, lame-brained script, even Schneider—the genre’s most ubiquitous presence—appears largely disinterested in the proceedings’ low-brow silliness and “Life’s about learning lessons” moralizing. It’s a reaction audiences are bound to have as well, although if my experience watching The Benchwarmers in a completely empty theater (a personal moviegoing first!) is any indication, perhaps they’ve already wised up to the typical crumminess of such SNL-style comedies.
Score:Cast: Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilborn, Milly Sims, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Eri9nn Bartlett, Amaury Nolasco, Bill Romanowski, Sean Salisbury, Reggie Jackson Director: Dennis Dugan Screenwriter: Allen Covert, Nick Swardson Distributor: Columbia Pictures Running Time: 80 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2006 Buy: Video