Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I've always been a pretty big fan of South Park, and I'm glad the show has gotten more clever (as I have) over the years.  Co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are generally pretty funny guys from what I've seen and listened to in interviews, but I've never given them much of a chance as actors.  Even though BASEketball was released between the first and second seasons of South Park, back when my fondness for dick jokes was at its zenith (AKA my teens), and despite the presence of the still-attractive-at-the-time Jenny McCarthy, I never got around to seeing this movie.  Comedies, especially stupid ones, don't always age well, but this was directed by David Zucker, so maybe this is one for the ages, right?  You know, like his other recent works, An American Carol or the Ashton Kutcher/Tara Reid vehicle, My Boss's Daughter.  I know you can't see this, but I'm yanking on my collar a la Dangerfield right now.

Coop (Trey Parker) and Remer (Matt Stone) are unemployed losers who haven't made anything of their lives since finishing high school.  After they crash a party filled with their more successful classmates, the pair find themselves talking trash to some jock-looking dudes who challenge them in the sport of their choice.  Smart enough to avoid a sure loss by playing a traditional sport, Coop and Remer create Baseketball on the spot; it's basically a cross between the shooting game HORSE from basketball and the scoring system from baseball, but that's not very important.  What is important is that these two morons create a sport that is easy to play, easy to understand (more or less), can be played on any driveway, and allows competitors to distract each other by any means necessary.
An example.
In a world filled with overpaid celebrity athletes with no sense of team loyalty, Baseketball skyrockets in popularity.  Eventually, eccentric millionaire Ted Denslow (Ernest Borgnine) and the boys team up to create a professional league --- but they agree to prevent players from leaving their teams or doing endorsements, for the good of the game.  When Denslow dies from complications stemming from a hot dog and extreme idiocy, ownership of the Milwaukee Beers is given to Coop.  Another owner, Baxter Cain (Robert Vaughn) is heading a movement to make the sport more profitable, but he needs Coop's cooperation...or for the team to belong to someone more morally pliable.  Cue naughty laugh and some slapstick humor.

Since this is a David Zucker movie, the acting isn't terribly important.  Actors are just there to deliver their lines and react to the bizarre gags that the script calls for.  Having said that, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not very good actors.
They're mostly adequate here, but that's only because this is a really dumb movie.  More often than not, their voice inflections tend to assume the characteristics that South Park fans will recognize as "adults about to say something incredibly stupid."  The other actors aren't much better.  In fact, some are worse.  Jenny McCarthy and Yasmine Bleeth are both unimpressive, but for different reasons; McCarthy does a lot of physical comedy gags and Bleeth pretends to act.  Neither are great, but at least they didn't trade roles and end up with McCarthy talking more.  Frequent Parker/Stone collaborator Dian Bachar is okay as a hapless pipsqueak, but was more useful as someone for Parker and Stone to be a jerk toward.  Borgnine and Vaughn lend some credibility to the film, and both are obviously the only professional actors in the movie, but it's not like their presence is going to change the type of movie this is.  There are a ton of cameos in the movie --- nothing too spectacular --- but they don't really add anything other than a few chuckles here and there.

With David Zucker at the helm (and co-writing the movie), you should know what you're getting.  There are a lot of visual gags, more than a few sex jokes, and a lot of stupid humor.  It's what the man does, and he's been doing it for a long time.  Is it funny?  Well...parts of it are.  I laughed at a few of the psyche-outs during the games.  Not all of them were funny (unexplained male lactation, for instance), but many were stupid enough to to amuse me.  The rest of the humor is obvious and underwhelming.  Whether it was the frequency of the straight man in a scene silently repeating a stupid line to himself in disbelief, the use of goofy costumes, or gags that were timely in Zucker's 1980 classic Airplane!, a lot of the jokes in this movie just felt old.
Cross-dressing men: funny only in England.

On the other hand, the concept behind this movie did a lot of things right.  I appreciated that the Baseketball teams had names that were (while usually stupid) appropriate for their geographical location.  Calling the Milwaukee team the Beers instead of the Brewers is as subtle as these jokes get, but I liked the Roswell Aliens and the Miami Dealers, too.  The basis of the film --- the average fan's dismay with modern spoiled athletes --- is a good one that could have led to an interesting story; of course, plot points weren't ever going to play a major part in BASEketball.  If absolutely nothing else, this movie takes the idea of cheerleaders seriously, eliminating much of their annoying chants and demands and instead opting for the more direct "sexual object" route.
Lingerie cheerleaders = marketing genius

As the film progressed, I found myself disappointed in Parker and Stone.  No, they're not professional actors, but I think they are both pretty funny guys, and this movie is way beneath their normal humor levels.  When the credits rolled, I figured out why.  The South Park boys were only actors in this movie; they received no directorial or writing credits.  With that knowledge, I was a lot less disappointed in this film.  No, it's not very good, but it is occasionally funny.  And I will give it credit for never trying to be anything more or less than a very stupid movie.  Not a lot of credit, but it was enough to keep me from hating this movie.

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