Balls Out: The Gary Houseman Story (2009) **
From Dodgeball to ping pong to basketball and even ice skating, sports have been the basis for wacky oddball comedies as of late, some better and funnier than others. This one doesn't star Will Ferrel or Vince Vaughan. Instead, it's Sean William Scott. He's been been funny before, so O.K., not a bad start.
The film's script apparently also won an award, I'm told. I'm not really sure how. There's nothing new or unexpected. It's the usual routine: a group of misfits gets an unruly new coach who turns them around and leads them to glory.
Sean William Scott plays tennis hasbeen/never-was Gary. He went on the Mexican semi-pro tour after a few incidents in college, before settling down in Nebraska, because it's as good as anywhere really. Plus the real estate is cheap (referring to a banged up motor home). He became an engineer - the custodial branch. One day he gets the itch an runs out on the tennis court while the high school team is practicing. The coach (Randy Quaid) recruits him as his assistant. Gary, for some reason, is enamored with the coach, but then he dies. Because he's not a teacher, the school can't make him the head coach, at least officially. The new head coach (or co-assistant coach) has no experience with tennis, or any other sport he says. In order to honor the late coach, Gary is determined to coach the tennis team to a state championship.
The cast includes lots of the usual oddballs: the gifted tennis player who reminds Gary of himself; wimpy kids afraid of getting hit with the ball; the sexy foreign language teacher as the subject of the protagonist's desires. There's also the late coach's teenage daughter, who interestingly, but oddly, has the hots for Gary before becoming the love interest of the teams star player. Gary even recruits the weird foreign kid - a pro ping pong player from the Philippines. He's never played tennis before, but his hand/eye coordination must be amazing, as Gary points out.
Balls Out actually does manage to be occasionally endearing with its goofy characters. And Sean William Scott really can play a dirty greaser very well - thanks most probably to his ability to grow a mean fumanchu. He seems so greasy it's almost offputting at times, but funny at others. When the late coach's daughter plants one on him, for a minute it seems plausible that he'll actually go through with it. That scene does lead to the film's mandatory act of turmoil and challenge. Of course, it's overcome though.
I had a fair share of laughs, but only a few roarers. The exchange student is comical in how quickly he himself becomes almost Gary's partner in crime after moving into the motor home with him. In the end, Balls Out just isn't consistently funny enough, and too many of the big jokes fall flat. The film will likely be released amid the January slew of films that studios would rather forget they made. I can't see the movie making a big box office splash, but it might do alright depending on what weekend it lands.
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