98 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, July 31, 1998
Co-written & directed by David Zucker
Starring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Yasmine Bleeth, Jenny McCarthy, Robert Vaughn, Ernest Borgnine, Dian Bachar, Bob Costas & Al Michaels
Largely ad-libbed sports spoof tanks after 20 minutes
David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams were once the apparent heirs to Mel Brooks' spoof crown. As a team, they produced idiotic satires that made audiences laugh whether they wanted to or not.
"Airplane!" was their debut, and possibly their high point. But when I'm channel surfing, I still put down the remote if I stumble across almost most of their movies -- "Naked Gun," "Top Secret!" and especially "Hot Shots!" -- because they still make me guffaw like a fool.
But now this former writing-directing trio is working separately and producing crap.
Last week Abrahams came out with "Mafia!," a Johnny-come-lately knock on mob movies that sinks like a stone after 20 minutes, and now we have David Zucker's "BASEketball," which lasts about 21 minutes before lapsing into a comedy coma.
Starring Trey Paker and Matt Stone (the guys who write, draw and voice the TV-MA-rated cartoon "South Park") as a couple of unemployed suburban yutzes whose baseball-basketball hybrid driveway game becomes an overnight national past-time, "BASEketball" is as gross, dumb and insulting as a well-made low-brow comedy should be.
But this one went wrong somehwere, and is just gross, dumb and insulting.
The movie opens with an ironic voice-over lamenting the coporatization of American sports and inciting giggles from gags like a brand name tampon blimp floating over a stadium with a string hanging from one end.
We're introduced to heroes Coop (Parker) and Remer (Stone) as they take on a couple of yuppies in a mutant game of two-on-two. Coop and Remer make up the rules on the spot and create a HORSE-like game, with players progressing around the half-court, as if it were a baseball diamond, upon successful swishes of the basketball by a teammate.
The game becomes a neighborhood sensation before being picked up by a local billionaire (Ernest Borgnine) and turned into a major league sport, with Coop and Remer as the star players for a team called the Milwaukee Beers.
A good third of the movie takes place within BASEketball games, leaving the comedy little place to go once it has exhausted a few sight gags -- roller-staking referees, Frederick's of Hollywood-outfitted cheerleaders and teams named created for one-time laughs, like the Dallas Felons (who wear prison uniforms), the San Francisco Fairies (with male stripper cheerleaders) and the Roswell Aliens (who have "anal probe night" at a home game).
Although it's designed in part to poke fun at the sorry state of professional sports, the only thing resembling plot in "BASEketball" is a scheme by a money-grubbing team owner (Robert Vaughn) to turn the game into a cash cow. The rest of the picture is a random succession of middling slapstick bits coupled with Coop's clumsy courting of an children's charity director, underwritten and (surprise!) underacted by Yasmine Bleeth.
"BASEketball" runs into trouble in part because it's obvious Parker and Stone were making up most of their dialogue as they went along. Universal Pictures is playing up the fact that the young insta-stars (who aren't bad actors, it turns out) re-wrote and even ad-libbed most of their lines. But suffice to say these guys are no Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
"BASEketball" has about 30 minutes worth of good laughs, but because it's been stretched to 98 minutes it feels like a ride in a small plane with two rookie pilots. Parker and Stone stall out, restart, gain altitude, then choke again until finally crashing in an unrecoverable nose-dive (which they still think is funny).
Like it's equally flawed cousin "Mafia!," "BASEketball" also has the rotten luck of being released in the wake of "There's Something About Mary," a movie from the Farrelly Brothers ("Dumb and Dumber," "Kingpin") that raises the comedy gross-out hurdle so high that only an idiot comedy savant like Jim Carrey could ever hope of clearing it.