Not since the halcyon days of Val Lewton and Arthur Freed has a producer left as indelible an imprint on his films as Adam Sandler, the man behind the maddeningly prolific Happy Madison production company. Sure, Jerry Bruckheimer's movies all look and feel the same, but his oeuvre stretches across genres, while Sandler remains addicted to modestly budgeted physical comedies about emotionally stunted slobs and underdogs, often with sports themes. As a result, Happy Madison productions often seem interchangeable. Even without Rob Schneider or David Spade in the lead roles, The Benchwarmers would still feel like a lazy amalgamation of previous efforts. Like The Waterboy and Happy Gilmore, it's an underdog sports comedy with a hero whose brilliance at a particular game somehow goes overlooked for decades. Like Billy Madison and Dickie Roberts, it strands adults in the realm of bullying children. And like pretty much everything else bearing Happy Madison's name, The Benchwarmers kind of sucks.
In a derivative comedy that recycles nearly everything in the Happy Madison playbook, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Jon Heder play buddies who form a three-man baseball team after defeating pint-sized bullies in defense of a curly-haired nerd. In a fit of inspiration, the nerd's billionaire father (Jon Lovitz) pits the newly christened Benchwarmers against other teams in a bid to increase geek pride and avenge the losses endured by geeks in their never-ending struggle with jocks. After wasting countless hours of prime television real estate, overgrown frat-boy Craig Kilborn sinks to his level playing the obnoxious coach of the jocks' team.
For the first two acts, veteran lowbrow director Dennis Dugan at least keeps The Benchwarmers' pace brisk and the wall-to-wall soundtrack upbeat and infectious. Then the big third-act twist arrives and the film drags to a finish, leaving a slug-like trail of squishy sentimentality. As in previous Happy Madison productions, booger-eating jokes and half-hearted uplift do not prove a winning combination.