Baseketball (1998) is so inherently stupid and crazy it’s a wonder it even got made at all. And do you know something? That’s EXACTLY why we love it! This David Zucker-helmed vehicle for Trey Parker and Matt Stone came not long after South Park’s first flushes of success the year before. It pretty much epitomizes what a movie has to do or be to fall into the genre of ‘slacker comedy’. We’ve got Parker and Stone – Coop and Remer respectively – as two goofball layabouts whose best days – if you can call them that – seem to have been in High School. As a result, they’ve never really broken away from the mould they trapped themselves in. Add in to the mix some hot girls they’re desperate to impress and their archetypal jock boyfriends kicking sand in their faces and brother…we’ve got ourselves a movie!
Baseketball doesn’t ever profess to be the celluloid example of the American Dream, but when you get around to thinking about it, it’s not that far off. Two strange guys inadvertently create a nationwide phenomenon – in this case the titular game; a cartoon-esque hybrid of… you guessed it… baseball and basketball – and make a bundle of cash from it. As success makes them stars across the States, out come the green eyes of jealousy, broken friendships and big business intervention. Man, it’s just like the forefathers said it would be!
The game itself is fun enough to make you kick yourself for either a) not coming up with it yourself and/or b) cursing others for not doing it either. Outside of the realm of ‘normal’ sports, the Baseketball crowds are encouraged to participate in bizarre things like ‘Dozen Egg Night’, and teams with names such as the Miami Dealers, Roswell Aliens and Detroit Lemons ply their trade and the game’s trump card: the psyche-out. Do all you can to discourage your opponent, just no touching!
The film’s key strengths lie in its total casting to the wind of normality and its cavalcade of cameos. Blonde bombshell and now noted anti-vax type Jenny McCarthy throws in a decent performance as a manipulative sex bomb. She’s joined by the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Yasmine Bleeth, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dale Earnhardt, Reggie Jackson, Victoria Silvstedt AND a song or two from ska-pop group Reel Big Fish. Now that would have made for a very interesting wrap party!
If Wikipedia is to be believed then Baseketball wasn’t exactly a roaring success at the box office. A $23m budget saw a paltry $7m recouped but it’s not about the money. At least it isn’t when you’re not the one investing. Historical context offers a more generous view of Baseketball; one where we can see the movie as a petri-dish of sorts to hone and enhance Parker and Stone’s undeniable comic talent. Eagle-eyed South Park fans will have noted at the time that Coop’s slide into a rather weird Cartman impression – weird since it’s hard to believe that irritating nasal whine could be summoned by any human – was an early display of just how weird and grotesque these two wanted to get.
As with most projects brought to life by Parker and Stone, their output contains a serious message wrapped up in a box covered in drawings of cocks and boobs. You have to relate at some point. Being puerile is probably the best way to do that. The usual dick jokes, fart gags, innuendos and all the rest are here, but the message, if indeed there is one this time, is that progress doesn’t always have to be boring. Parker and Stone were mocked by their former peers for not conforming, not ‘growing up’ – although they were losers – but what would they be pursuing? Trying to find the ‘perfect’ partner and surrounding yourself with expensive, shiny playthings?
Nah… do what comes best and stick to what you know. It might turn out alright in the end after all.