4 August 2015 | StevePulaski
A potential skit squandered by an insufferable runtime and array of lackluster jokes
The theatrical poster for Balls Out (also known as Intramural and another film that can't maintain consistency of what it should be called on a variety of different film websites) reminds me of the DVD covers of a direct-to-DVD National Lampoon film or a throwaway sex comedy one can find by lazily searching Netflix's streaming selection. Its boisterous display of the backside of a cheerleader in uniform, complete with a football reading the film's title is perplexing because it seems that MGM and Orion Pictures is marketing a totally different film here. After seeing the festival circuit success of a film like They Came Together, a film that was hellbent on calling out the clichés of romantic comedies, did these two immensely successful studios really think a film about parodying sports clichés couldn't succeed?
It's no real bother because the more under-the-radar Balls Out stays, the better. This is one of the many desperately unfunny comedies I've seen this year, almost down there with Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser and Mortdecai in the way these films seem to cloyingly pine for laughs by throwing their main character into any circumstance so long as it's allegedly funny. Balls Out, a film centered around a gaggle of misfit football players in college whom reunite their ragtag, intramural football team years after an injured teammate caused them to disband, is a film that sets itself up to fail right from the get-go. It's a film that tries to emphasize the stupidity, incredulity, and sheer brainlessness of a plethora of underdog sports films, but instead of going a separate way and rising above the clichés, Balls Out finds it funny to simply play by them in a loud and obvious manner. By the end, I had one question for director Andrew Disney and writer Bradley Jackson - what did you accomplish with this particular film? You didn't prove yourself better than the sports films you were lampooning, you just dumbed your film down to their level by positioning this film as the answer to all the clichés and predictabilities of a genre.
Where They Came Together had the chemistry of Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler at its core, constantly emphasizing their quick-witted nature and their plethora of zingers, Balls Out pathetically orchestrates one tired situation after another that involves the group of collegians yelling, screaming, and slamming one another to the ground in an entirely witless fashion. Laughing at the fact these imbeciles take intramural sports so seriously grows grating, especially when the memories of gym class from school-years gone past begin to surface, where all the torment and humiliation came into play.
At its core, however, Balls Out is simply not funny. Like its characters, it tries so hard to make us laugh by persistently nudging us, the audience, positioning itself to be wiser and more humorous than the film it's parodying, when it finds a way to be much lower than those films simply because it fails at its ultimate goal of being a successful comedy. This is also the case of a film that maybe could've made a successful two to three minute skit on Saturday Night Live (apparently this film stars members of comedy groups like that, Derrick Comedy, BriTANicK, and Good Neighbor, although I presume a lot of their talent got lost in translation); it certainly makes a nearly insufferable one-hundred minutes.
Starring: Jake Lacy, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, Nikki Reed, and Kate McKinnon. Directed by: Andrew Disney.