on July 31, 1998 by Wade Major
The much-touted comedic pairing of writer/producer/director David Zucker ("Airplane!," "The Naked Gun" series) with "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in "BASEketball" arrives as something of a strange and only sporadically successful comedic hybrid, a blend of "Airplane!"-style gags with traditional slapstick, low-brow toilet humor and a surprisingly conventional storyline that manages just barely enough laughs to keep audiences amused.
Parker and Stone star as Joe Cooper and Doug Remer, two unemployed slackers who inadvertently conceive the game of BASEketball, a peculiar cross between basketball and baseball, only to see their creation become an overnight success when an eccentric tycoon named Ted Denslow (Ernest Borgnine) sponsors the creation of a professional league. When Denslow dies unexpectedly, however, he bequeaths the team to Cooper on condition that they win the next year's championship. Otherwise, the team reverts to his widow, Yvette (Jenny McCarthy), who has already begun conspiring with competing team owner Baxter Cain (Robert Vaughn) to insure such a loss.
Given the adolescent nature of its subject matter, "BASEketball" looks to strike a chord with fans of Parker's and Stone's "South Park," moreso than those looking for Zucker's more clever, sight gag-oriented "Naked Gun" humor.
Most of the funnier bits, in fact, derive from Stone's and Parker's antics in practicing an aspect of the game called the "Psych-Out," wherein players resort to random, off-the-wall annoyances to distract the other team from making its baskets.
The primary intention with "BASEketball" is to satirize the world of professional sports, a goal which the film only half achieves. In deriding the commercialization of professional sports, the film fails miserably. But as a parody of the self-importance of sports broadcasting, it succeeds with unprecedented hilarity, thanks mainly to a cavalcade of cameos by major sports broadcasters only too willing to indulge in self-deprecation.
A sub-plot centering around Cooper's and Remer's infatuation with the representative of a sick children's charity (Yasmine Bleeth) is more of a narrative filler, neither particularly funny nor especially distracting.
As for the game of BASEketball itself, allegedly invented by Zucker and his friends some 10 years ago, audiences intent on trying to actually understand the game will only frustrate themselves needlessly, likely missing many of the film's precious few moments of genuine humor in the process. Starring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Dian Bachar, Robert Vaughn, Yasmine Bleeth and Jenny McCarthy. Directed by David Zucker. Written by David Zucker & Robert LoCash & Lewis Friedman & Jeff Wright. Produced by David Zucker, Robert LoCash and Gill Netter. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated R for strong language and crude sex-related humor. Running time: 103 min
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