New Reviews

The Benchwarmers, Phat Girlz, Take the Lead, When Do We Eat?

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BRICK
See Film feature. (Edwards University, Irvine)

GAME 6
See Film feature. (Edwards University, Irvine)

 
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THE BENCHWARMERS
The Bad News Bears starring man-children, The Benchwarmers finds aging dorks Richie (David Spade) and Clark (Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder) and the relatively able Gus (Rob Schneider) challenging a little league full of bullies to play ball. The stakes are a new stadium bankrolled by Star Wars–lovin' billionaire Mel Schmegmer (Jon Lovitz), who drives the actual car from Knight Rider and whose last name sounds suspiciously like a medical condition of unhygienic genitalia. Even with their age advantage, it's easy to root for these misfits against the hyper-competitive kids whose grown-up coaches are still partial to titty-twisters. But it's hard to buy the movie as an underdog success story, since even the actors barely seem to exert themselves. Watch Spade try to swing and "miss"—is that really the best take they got? (If so, a cry of "More effort!" is in order.) And while The Benchwarmers means well, jokes reliant on a fey agoraphobe (Nick Swardson) and Heder's spastic nerdism suggest the writers' sense of humor isn't so different from the bullies'. Schneider here occupies producer Adam Sandler's role as the Little Guy Who Could—although without Sandler's timing, he exudes only a Capra-corny sanctimoniousness. A movie is certainly one way to send a be-kind-to-others PSA. Add The Benchwarmers to Schneider's trade-mag attack ad and public stance in favor of race-blind casting, and it's clear the actor not only views himself as a spokesman for the disenfranchised, he counts himself among them. (Ben Kenigsberg) (Countywide)

FRIENDS WITH MONEY
See Film feature. (Edwards South Coast Village, Santa Ana)

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN
See Film feature. (Countywide)

ON A CLEAR DAY
See Film feature. (Edwards South Coast Village, Santa Ana)

PHAT GIRLZ
Hollywood these days is all about tapping into niches, and so it only makes sense that someone would decide to make a film aimed at all the plus-sized folks in the audience. Here, Mo'Nique stars as Jazmin Biltmore, an aspiring fashion designer who blames her lack of luck in finding the right man on the unflattering clothes that fit her size. But debut writer and director Nnegest Likké, (a former producer on the TV show Blind Date) never moves beyond the simple idea that "big girls deserve a chance too." The film wants to have a warmhearted laugh at the travails of being large, without resorting to fat chick jokes, but Likké too often get bogged down in maudlin sentimentality, such as when Jazmin has something of a breakdown and begins wailing for her dead grandmother. Mo'Nique has previously made the most of supporting roles—her "blacktino" riff in Domino pretty much stole the film—but her character here is so underwritten that the actress doesn't get a chance to really capitalize on her extra screen-time. Her sassy forte may be talking so straight-up she sounds crazy, but she seems a little advanced to be doing "yo mamma" jokes. (Mark Olsen) (Countywide)

Dinner will be a bit late at the Stuckman family Seder, especially now that Christmas-ornament tycoon and overbearing father Ira (Michael Lerner) has found out that his oldest son, Zeke (a wry Ben Feldman), slipped Ecstasy into his antacid. Meanwhile, Ira's neglected wife (Lesley Ann Warren) has pitched a giant tent in the back yard with the hope of inspiring conviviality among her bickering family, which includes Ira's Holocaust-obsessed father (Jack Klugman, looking great), a lesbian daughter, a womanizing son who's gone Orthodox, and, because it's Brentwood, a harried Hollywood publicist. In a debut film that's more well-intentioned than funny, director Salvador Litvak and his co-writer (and wife) Nina Davidovich have Ira tripping out on color-rippling auras and visions of the Haggadah coming to life—effects that are crisply executed—while fielding the barbed commentary of the family he so often bullies. Steeped in conversation about Jewish lore and custom, When Do We Eat? may strike a chord with those struggling to reconcile traditional faith and modernity, though few are likely to buy Ira's post-high transformation into a loving husband and father. Such a miracle would take a barrelful of hallucinogens. (Chuck Wilson) (Century Stadium, Orange; Regency Lido, Newport Beach; UA Marketplace, Long Beach)

PREVIEW

KINKY BOOTS
Sat. between 7 and 7:35 p.m. (Countywide)

 
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