19th Feb2019

‘Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Chris Klein, Chelsey Reist, Jon Lovitz, Jonathan Silverman, Liam Hughes, Zak Santiago, Lochlyn Munro, Garfield Wilson, Elizabeth Bowen, Lisa Durupt, Chris Gauthier, Peter Graham-Gaudreau, Zachary Gulka, Benita Ha, Crystal Lowe, Lee Majdoub | Written by Stephen Mazur | Directed by Jonathan A. Rosenbaum

benchwarmers-2-dvd

Ben McGrath (Chris Klein) had major league potential playing professional baseball, but his hopes to play ball literally get crushed. Down on his luck, Ben gets another swing at redemption as a new attorney for Schmood & Associates. His unorthodox boss, Mel (Jon Lovitz), convinces him to manage their eclectic softball team full of misfits and strikeouts. Together, will they have enough spirit to rally and win it all?

OK, so The Benchwarmers didn’t set the world on fire but I did enjoy the ridiculous underdog film for what it was – a stupid, laugh out loud comedy product from the “Happy Gilmore” factory of filmmaking. In the grand scheme of sporting comedies its story of a bunch of older nerds helping and inspiring a group of teenage outcasts was very much in the Bad News Bears mold – a mold that some might say has been worn into the ground but still has its place in the cinematic landscape, especially when the film has a heart to it the way The Benchwarmers did.

So what of the sequel? Well it took 13 years to reach the screen, comes from the writer of both the Without a Paddle and Jingle All the Way DTV sequels; and is directed by Jonathan A. Rosenbaum, who previously helmed another much-delayed sequel, Cop and a Half: New Recruit – another film, like this particular flick, that comes from the Universal 1440 Entertainment stable. A stable which, after being originally set-up to produce direct to DVD sequels to Universal’s properties such as Death Race, Tremors and The Scorpion King, has seemingly decided to scrape the barrel of the Universal docket and in recent years has churned out sequels to Kindergarten Cop, Daddy Day Care, the aforementioned Cop and a Half, Honey, Bring it On and – get this – even Backdraft!

Which is a very long-winded way of saying don’t get your hopes up.

Whereas the original film was very much of the Adam Sandler-school of storytelling: stupid, and often gross-out gags, and a cast that lampooned their way through the movie; Benchwarmers 2 feels a lot more like a traditional rom-com with some of that Sandler-esque comedy in the baseball scenes. Feeling, at least to me, more like a sequel to Major League 3: Back to the Minors rather than The Benchwarmers.

But what of the connection to the first film? Well Jon Lovitz is back as Mel, the guy responsible for setting up the titular Benchwarmers team in the first film; and Lochlyn Munro appears as Stenhouse, the antagonist of the movie – now Munro did appear in the original film but as the construction foreman who built the stadium at the end of the film. The OTHER recurring character is Chelsey Reist’s Annie, who apparently watched the baseball match at the climax of the first film and was inspired to play softball before becoming a lawyer herself. Yeah, tenuous link at best… In fact this film, whilst its supposed to be a sequel, actually feels like one of those films that is connected in name only – hell, Lovitz’s character could even NOT be the same Mel; especially given that this films biggest sin is the fact he has a young daughter here and there’s no sign of his put-upon son from the original movie!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some laughs to be had with Benchwarmers 2 but it does feel very much like a film going through the motions – packed with stereotypical misfits rather than attempting to make the characters feel real. And yes, I get I’m saying this about Benchwarmers… But comparing the two films, the misfits of the original at least felt like well-rounded, “real” people (well apart from Nick Swardson’s agoraphobic brother) – here we just get tropes and cliches that reel off one-liners.

Unless your a franchise completist – and I know there’s some of you out there (hell, I’d even count myself as one) – there’s no real reason to seek out Benchwarmers 2 but, and it’s a big but, if it happens to be on TV and/or is suggested by a streaming service for you to watch and you enjoyed the original then… and probably only then… should you give this one a spin.

Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls is out now on DVD and Digital in the US.

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