Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Baseketball

I can have fun imagining what a slapstick sports parody in the vein of Airplane! or The Naked Gun would be like had one come out in the eighties. Leslie Neilson could have been the grizzled manager, Robert Hays the worn-out veteran looking for a comeback, Val Kilmer the hot-rod upstart, Robert Stack a rival coach, and George Kennedy the befuddled team owner. And of course, it would have been made by Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker, the filmmaking team of Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker that made those movies, and it would have made fun of all those sports formulas the same way these guys had made fun of disaster movies, cop movies, spy thrillers, and action movies.

Fast forward to the nineties (or even to today), and I can picture Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, really sticking it to professional sports. There probably would have been a musical number or two, but these guys would have been merciless in satirizing spoiled athletes, the inanity of media coverage, the hypocrisy prevalent in much of it, and the celebrity culture around it (in fact, they've done so in a number of South Park episodes).

Baseketball (1998) is a would-be hybrid of the styles of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker and the Parker-Stone, utilizing an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, buckshot mania of Airplane! and the foul-mouthed, in-your-face, raunchy sensibilities of South Park. David Zucker directs while Stone and Parker star. Unfortunately, Baseketball is neither as funny and as saturated with jokes as those older films nor as sharp, satirical, or relevant as Parker and Stone's other work they actually wrote and produced (which is not the case here). When you get down to it, Baseketball is quite lame and unfunny.

Childhood friends Cooper (Parker) and Remer (Stone) invent a new sport on the spot at a party, baseketball, which as the name implies is a cross between basketball and baseball. It soon catches on, and the boys go pro with billionaire Ted Denzlow (Ernest Borgnine). The ideals of the league are high: everybody gets paid the same, players can't get traded, and teams can't relocate. Coop and Remer eventually have a falling out over Jenna (Yasmine Bleeth), the head of a children's foundation, while ruthless businessman Baxter Cain (Robert Vaughn) aims to change the rules of the game to maximize owner profit.

There's really not a whole lot to say about Baseketball. It's crude, vulgar, stupid, and after awhile, just tedious. The game itself doesn't have much in the way of variety. All the guys do is shoot hoops while their opponents make goofy faces or say gross things to get them to miss. This is kind of funny at first, but it never takes off and becomes hilarious; the gags quickly become tired, and the obvious route to a joke is taken every time.

There are also long stretches throughout the movie away from the sport, but even these aren't very lively. A trip to the hospital to visit a sick fan (a kid who is very irritating) feels like a rehash of Leslie Neilson's escapades with O.J. Simpson in The Naked Gun, but instead of building one joke after another, the scene just goes on with wacky things happening and not much payoff. Or when Coop flies to Calcutta and sees all the sports merchandise is made by children in a factory, and the only attempted joke in this sequence is how Indian hard hats are shaped like turbans.

The idea of satirizing sports and/or sports movies is a good one, but nothing is really done with it here. Occasionally, there are moments worthy of a chuckle - a football team riverboat dancing, teams selling the naming rights of their stadiums, Remer having a crony run the bases for him - but there are some long, empty stretches. Most jokes fall into the realm of four-letter words, peeing, farting, ball shots, and gross-out gags that aren't really gags.

Parker and Stone do all right. They must thank their lucky stars they didn't write this, but considering how much animation they do, I wouldn't mind seeing them attempt another live-action film with a better script. Vaughn looks bored and contributes nothing. Borgnine is out of the picture after maybe five minutes of screen time, and the only memorably thing he does is randomly sing "I'm Too Sexy for My Shirt." Bleeth and the other female star, Jenny McCarthy, merely take up space every time they show up. There are the usual number of cameos that go along with this type of movie, but they aren't funny either.

This is one of those movies where everything is thrown against the wall, but nothing really sticks. The plot is a free-for-all, but instead of comic anarchy, it's a dull mess.

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