Benched is a no-brainer recommendation for sports movie fans. It’s charming, funny and, despite its rote concepts, the filmmakers put forth enough effort to give audiences something different.
The premise of the film reminded me of a dynamic in 2005’s Will Ferrell comedy Kicking & Screaming. In that movie, Ferrell plays a soft father who takes on the responsibilities of coaching his son’s soccer team. His kind methods clash with his assistant coach, former NFL player/coach Mike Ditka as himself, who would prefer to see different ideas towards competition and discipline. There’s a similar relationship in Benched, except swapped and more matured. Diligent little league baseball coach Don (John C. McGinley) has a passionate love for the game and hates to see his team lose. But his new hire assistant coach Michael (Garret Dillahunt) could care less about winning – playing sports is all about having fun after all.
Screenwriter Richard Dresser (adapting from his play Rounding Third) chooses to make this relationship the main focus of the story, which works considering how efficient and cooperative Robert Deaton and George J. Flanigen IV are as filmmakers, but also because of how strong the chemistry is between McGinley and Dillahunt. Playing a humorously stubborn smart aleck comes easy for McGinley (of Scrubs fame), and Dillahunt (of TV’s Raising Hope) is in his element as well playing an affectionate and honest parent. Together, they frustrate each other to a comical degree, but the actors spare any notes of sneering sarcasm that could mock themselves or any other character. The relationship fits nicely with the overall cordiality of Benched, a movie that makes its approach to “coaches coaching each other” more honest than most other examples in the genre.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie