Seriously, nothing made me happier than to see the Orion Pictures preceding the opening credits of Balls Out. This is the same company that gave us Caddyshack, Robocop (the original, NOT the remake), many classic Woody Allen films as well as Best Picture winners Platoon, Dances with Wolves and The Silence of the Lambs. Orion’s creative output, however, didn’t provide them with much box success, and they eventually filed for bankruptcy. But now it appears to have risen from its debt ridden past, and to see their logo again after all these years is just awesome.
Okay, enough of that. Let’s talk about Andrew Disney’s sports comedy Balls Out which features a cast of very talented comedic actors from Saturday Night Live, Derrick Comedy, BriTANicK, and Good Neighbor. From the movie’s start it looks like it is going to satirize college football, but its target is a little more specific than that: intramural football. It looks like flag football, but there’s still a lot of brutal tackling involved. As for the fans… well, they’re not exactly packing the stands.
We meet Caleb Fuller (Jake Lacy) who steps out onto the field with his friend Grant Rosenfalis (Nick Kocher), both of whom play for The Panthers. They face off against their longtime opponents the Titans and give them their all, but the game ends on a disastrous note when Grant is hit hard and gets paralyzed from the penis down (scary). Devastated by this terrible tragedy, Caleb disbands the team and vows never to play intramural football ever again.
The movie then moves up to a number of years later, and Caleb is now a fifth-year senior in college (I was one once) facing graduation and an uncertain future. His ever so obsessive girlfriend Vicky (Kate McKinnon) is dead serious about getting married soon, very soon, and the expectations and realities of post-college life drive him up the wall. As a result, he decides to just go ahead and reassemble the Panthers for one last shot at intramural football glory. Getting the team back together, of course, proves to be challenging, and the Titans are incredibly eager to walk all over them on and off the field.
When it comes to sports comedies, I tend to think they have run their course as all the clichés in them have satirized to death. But that’s not the case with Balls Out which proves to have a number of surprises up its sleeve. Many comedies make the mistake of telegraphing their jokes in advance to where the punchline falls flat, so I was surprised and delighted to see that this wasn’t the case here.
Balls Out plays around with all those sports movie clichés we grew up on, and it also makes clear that Air Bud 4 does not fit into a list of memorable sports underdog movies. Screenwriter Bradley Jackson comes up with many moments that ring true such as the fact that you’re not supposed to answer a rhetorical question, he makes you ponder whether there is a number between 3 and 4, and you come out of this movie wondering if the line “you gotta crap on the ceiling” should be taken literally or figuratively.
But the real credit for this movie’s success belongs to the cast who look to be up for every comedic challenge thrown in their path. Jake Lacy, who gave us the unbelievably cool nice guy in Obvious Child, is winning as Caleb as he balances out his uneasiness about the future with his inescapable desire to play that one last game. Nick Kocher makes for an amusing paralyzed player turned unorthodox coach as Grant Rosenfalis and, yes, his name is amusing too. Beck Bennet turns his character of Dick Downs, the star player of the Titans, into a perfectly reprehensible douchebag who has some serious emotional repression issues going on. Also, Jay Pharaoh and D.C. Pierson score a number of great “did he just say that” moments as a pair of sports commentators who deserve a bigger audience at the games they attend.
While there is a lot of testosterone on display here, don’t think that the ladies are left out of this comedic fun fest. Nikki Reed, years removed from the blistering cinematic experience that was Thirteen, is perfectly cast as Meredith Downs, the woman who captures Caleb’s heart. Reed is such an appealing presence here and she (sorry but I have to say it) lights up the screen whenever she appears.
Still, there’s no denying that the main scene-stealer in Balls Out is Kate McKinnon. As Caleb’s infinitely spoiled bride to be Vicky, she is absolutely hilarious from one scene to the next as her strong (to put it mildly) desire to get married quickly overrules any and every dream those close to her want to pursue in their own lives. Just as she does each week on Saturday Night Live, McKinnon commits to her character fully and shows no fear in breaking boundaries for the sake of a gut busting laugh.
Balls Out will not go down as one of the greatest comedies ever made, but it is certainly better than a number of others that have been released so far this year. While the humor at times gets a little too broad, the laughs keep coming to where this is not your usual hit and miss comedy, the kind I see way too often these days. It should provide you and your friends a fun time at the movies, and it’s a must if you’re a big fan of any of these actors (especially McKinnon).