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Review: Choking, but not from laughter, after 'BASEketball'

Web posted on: Tuesday, August 04, 1998 12:04:46 PM

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- It's too bad for David Zucker, Matt Stone, and Trey Parker that the woman who sat behind me while I watched "BASEketball" isn't writing this review. She damn near choked over every single "joke" in the movie. After about 20 minutes of this I felt like grabbing her in a headlock and dragging her to a video store to rent a Marx Brothers tape, but (even in the dark) I could see that she was pretty big, so I opted instead for riding out the picture.

If you're quick, you may have already surmised that I didn't much care for "BASEketball," but the movie's so incessantly stupid it's really difficult to work up any energy in disliking it. I'm just amazed that there's still a market for this kind of thing. This is one of those "Airplane!"-type farces -- director Zucker, along with his brother Jerry and partner Jim Abrahams, invented the formula with that one -- in which rudimentary pop cultural references are coupled with puns and visual nonsense in an attempt to choke the great, big lady sitting behind you.

"Airplane!," I'll have to admit, is very funny the first time you see it. But if ever there was a type of movie that cried out to be a one-off enterprise, baby, "Airplane!" was it. That, of course, made it a prime candidate for endless recycling by Hollywood's easy-money lust cult. But "BASEketball," incredibly enough, drops the enterprise another rung down comedy's evolutionary ladder, and I'm sure connoisseurs all over this great country of ours will be applauding the descent as a breakthrough.

Clip - "Heads up!": 1.1Mb QuickTime
Entire theatrical trailer 2.9Mb QuickTime

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Stupidity of 'gross-out' humor

Nowadays, because they've evidently forgotten that they already attended elementary school, a lot of people are accepting "Jerry Springer" and Comedy Central's brazenly repulsive "South Park" as bold, boundary-crashing forms of communication. That means that our "Airplane" movies now feature "gross-out" humor that can be readily imagined by anyone who can readily imagine, although you still have to pay full price for a ticket if you want to see it.

Stone and Parker, as you probably already know, are the masterminds behind "South Park," but they've made it clear in interviews that they don't want that connection stressed when people talk about this movie. It's a bit difficult, though, since I feel just about as uninspired by their construction paper cartoon as I do with "BASEketball."

I don't begrudge them their success (and they seem like good guys, so I honestly wish them nothing but the best) but it seems to me that there's too many very talented people out there for us to be anointing a couple of glorified booger-wipers as the new keepers of the comic flame. Don't start screaming at me about this, either. Congratulations if you think these guys are the next best thing to lighting a fart with a match. Besides, if you look at it that way, I actually agree with you.

In the early going it looked like the movie might actually be a satire, rather than a large group of people's multi-million dollar attempt to make a fart noise under their community armpit.

If you haven't noticed already, the movie's amazing lack of laughs or remotely interesting content has forced me to spend half the review in its outer regions. There's very little to say about "BASEketball" itself. Parker and Stone star as a couple of suburban losers who invent a basketball game in their driveway that incorporates the scoring elements of baseball. Sink one from the free-throw line, and it's a single, a little further out is a double, etc.

You're also allowed to "psyche out" your opponent by standing a few feet away from him while he takes aim. This is accomplished by doing whatever "gross" thing comes into your head. Thank God for this rule, too, because if it weren't there, there wouldn't be enough footage to piece together what can only euphemistically be called a motion picture.

In the early going it looked like the movie might actually be a satire, rather than a large group of people's multi-million dollar attempt to make a fart noise under their community armpit. The idea is that sports have become overrun by money-chasing players with no loyalty, and teams that hop all over the country without the slightest regard for their fans. (Being a Browns obsessive, that one hit home.)

And yet more 'gross-out' humor

Ernest Borgnine, as a guy wearing a cowboy hat, puts together a team and starts a league centered around the new game. It takes off, becoming the biggest thing in sports. Then Borgnine dies (courtesy of a funny sight gag that was beaten to death by trailers and commercials before the movie was ever released), and Robert Vaughn shows up as the bad guy who wants to take control of the team now that Parker has inherited it from the departed owner.

Then there's a bunch of games, and people stand a few feet away from each other doing gross things. These include drinking a bunch of Marlon Brando's liposuctioned butt fat from a bag, and pretending to cut off a finger with some pliers. Blood shoots everywhere, and the guy misses the shot. Please stop; I can't breath from laughing.

Also on hand are Jenny McCarthy as a walking, talking set of mammary glands, and Yasmine Bleeth as a walking, talking set of mammary glands -- only Bleeth is supposed to be smart and caring. Of course, you're bound to laugh once or twice (what with the joke-to-minute ratio being 7 to 1), but, jeepers, it gets old fast. Supposedly Stone and Parker were hired before their "South Park" success, but I can't imagine why. They have zero on-screen charisma, and Parker's James Naismith-inspired jump shot technique suggests that he's spent a great deal of time having the ball slapped back into his face during backyard pick-up games.

Get back to the cartoons, guys. And don't spend it all at once.

"BASEketball" is loaded with urine, puss, and bile jokes. The scantily clad team cheerleaders do S&M dance routines. There's bad language and very embarrassing cameos from sportscasters like Bob Costas and Al Michaels, both of whom shouldn't have lowered themselves. Costas is smarter and funnier than this during his average TV broadcast. Rated PG-13. 90 minutes.

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