'Balls Out': Film Review

Balls Out Still - H 2015

Balls Out Still - H 2015

They brought back Orion Pictures for this?

Andrew Disney's comedy about a ragtag college football team spoofs the cliches of underdog sports movies.

Arriving in theaters with a vulgar new title (replacing the original Intramural), a sexed-up poster and sporting the banner of the long defunct Orion Pictures, Andrew Disney's comedy travels familiar territory in its relentless spoofing of sports movie cliches. Hammering home every gag as if to make sure we don't miss them, Balls Out garners a few laughs but mostly seems far too taken with itself.

The central character is fifth year college senior Caleb (Jake Lacy, Obvious Child) who's not terribly excited about studying for his LSATs or getting engaged to his harpy girlfriend (Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live) when she proposes. In an effort to relieve his ennui he decides to reunite his old flag football team, the Panthers, for one last shot at victory against their arch rivals, the Titans. Their head coach is the not too subtly named Grant Rosenfalis (Nick Kocher), a former player who suffered a devastating injury that left him "paralyzed from the testicles down," a handy condition to have when a football is thrown directly into his crotch.

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Reassembling the ragtag team that includes an opera-singing cowboy, a fey goth magician and a mathematician trying to discover the number between three and four, Caleb finds his attention drifting when he meets the lovely Meredith (Nikki Reed), the sister of the Titans' boorish leader (Beck Bennett).

That's about it in terms of plotting, with the film cramming in endless visual and verbal references to such movies as Rocky, Chariots of Fire, Hoosiers and many others, including, of course, the inevitable training montages. Bradley Jackson's screenplay occasionally wanders into other pop culture territory, as with a gender stereotype-bending conversation revolving around The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Some of the knowing gags hit their target, such as when Caleb, trying to rally his fellow players, exclaims, "This might be our last shot at something that doesn't matter," or when the manic coach explains, "This isn't about winning ... it's about winning at the last possible second."

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Lacy and Reed are appealing as the romantic leads, McKinnon steals every scene she's in (sadly, there aren't enough of them) and Kocher is a hoot as the cliche-spouting, disabled coach.    

But despite the hard-working efforts of the cast, featuring many other Saturday Night Live veterans including Jay Pharoah as one of a pair of Greek chorus commentators cracking wise on the sidelines, the parodistic film runs out of comic steam early on. And strangely enough for a movie containing a scene in which a character attempts to take a crap on the ceiling, the relatively tame Balls Out ultimately lacks the courage of its anarchic convictions.

Production: Ralph Smyth Entertainment, Raindance Entertainment, Red Productions
Cast: Jake Lacey, Nikki Reed, Kate McKinnon, Beck Bennett, Nick Kocher, Brian McElhaney, Gabriel Luna
Director: Andrew Disney
Screenwriter: Bradley Jackson
Producers: Russell Wayne Groves, Bradley Jackson, Andrew Shingang Lee, Red Sanders, David James Ward
Executive producers: Spence Jackson, Tucker Moore, Jason Netter
Director of photography: Jeffrey Waldron
Production designer: Jason Hammond
Editor: Kody Gibson
Costume designer: Abby Elaina Hall
Composer: Alice Wood
Casting: Nancy Nayor, Lindsey Weissmuller

Rated R, 100 min.