After baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, dodgeball, figure skating, and ping pong all received big screen treatments, I think we all subconsciously knew a tetherball movie was coming along. Personally, I thought such a movie would ride off of Napoleon Dynamite’s freak success. I did not expect such a movie to be released, well, now.
But, here we are. Director Chris Nickin and screenwriter Rick Dawson have given movie goers a competitive tetherball movie featuring a lot of amateur performances, too many expletives, an insane amount of nudity, and gratuitous appearances by cult celebrities. But, did I hate Tetherball: The Movie? Weirdly enough, I didn’t.
Tetherball: The Movie may not look polished or exude professionalism, but hard work has been committed to this sports comedy – I admire that. Nickin’s movie is hard to feel anger towards because, ultimately, the comedy has been strung together by friends who have the best intentions while farting around with their video cameras. The laboured humour may come across as sexist, homophobic, and fat-shaming, but the jokes never feel mean-spirited; as if the filmmakers set out to provoke different groups of people. Most of the comedy is flat, but its politically incorrectness has been conceived with harmlessness.
Tetherball: The Movie walks a very thin line representing gay men as fondling perverts, women as ditzy lingerie models, and overweight people as slobs, but it’s all through the vision of a teenager who doesn’t know any better. I didn’t get mad. I just wanted to send Nickin and Dawson to their bedrooms.
The low-budget production is also a humble one. The actors come across as game performers you’d want to have a beer with. They all have a genuine passion for the juvenile movie they set out to make with attitudes that suggest no regrets and hearty integrity.
Dawson’s story goes through the usual motions of a sports movie with an underdog story. The narrative flounders when Dawnson gets distracted by swear words or the opportunity for a sex scene, but he manages to hit the proper beats and add some vigorous zest for extra points. He misses some chances to take more substantial swings at corporate sponsorships, but the glimpses of cleverness the audience sees is enough to convince us that Dawson knows what he’s doing.
Tetherball: The Movie has the presentation of a project that’s been pieced together over a school year. My wife noted that the celebrity roles felt as if they were favours given between college appearances – she’s absolutely right. Ron Jeremy pops up as a manipulative schemer with lots of cheesy zingers. He’s able to deliver on both of those counts. The actor who steals the show, however, is Dustin Diamond as a surly trainer who whips the film’s messy team into shape. Diamond has chosen Tetherball: The Movie to show movie goers that he can actually be funny when he chooses to throw all dignity out the window. It’s too bad that doesn’t work in real life for Mr. Diamond.
Nickin’s film is ultimately hampered by how uninteresting tetherball is. The stationary pastime is not exciting to watch, and only offers so much space for creativity when trying to amp up a game for intensity purposes. We see a “ball cam” that’s fairly inspired, but that’s about it. If Dawson’s script was about any other sport, the filmmaker probably would’ve been more thankful.
Tetherball: The Movie manages to be mildly amusing with its brand of immature lowbrow humour. That doesn’t save it, however, from serving time in detention.