A movie with its goombah credentials fully intact, “Artie Lange’s Beer League” puts auds in the bleachers cheering for tubby New Jersey losers in an adult softball league where anything goes. Sloppy but unconcerned about it, pic offers a trip back in time to a pre-PC and feminist era when men were sexist Neanderthals, women supported them from the sidelines and the guy with the biggest mouth scored. Mid-September opening puts this piece o’ pizza smack in the middle of the high-end season, but male heavy turnout and Howard Stern fans will root it on into vid dugouts.
As Stern’s Everyman sidekick, Lange has a rep to uphold as a profane, boozing-and-smoking man of the people, and, on that score, pic can’t be surpassed. As Artie, 35 and still living with mom (played by no less than Laurie Metcalf), Lange is a key cog in the lineup for softball squad sponsored by Ed’s Bar & Swill.
His nemesis is nefarious egomaniac Manganelli (Anthony De Sando), not only pitcher for the league’s perennial champs (in black uniforms, natch) and owner of the local gym but also running for mayor. Manganelli makes Artie easy to like, and it’s the film’s joke on the audience to make otherwise sensitive and thinking human beings willing to cheer on a guy who has to work extremely hard to be a gentleman by anyone’s standards.
On the other hand, for Artie-types in the audience, he has to be their ideal hero come to life. He attracts local gal Linda (Cara Buono), who’s charmed by his goombah frankness but must know that she’s dating an overgrown child.
Flimsy plot hinges on Artie and Manganelli’s teams — forever getting into brawls on the field –being told by the league that the squad that doesn’t win the pennant is out of the league for good.
Lange looks relaxed in pic designed for the lower-than-lowbrow, as does supporting cast from Ralph Maccio as a soon-to-be married buddy to a hilariously profane Seymour Cassel as the team’s elder statesman. Jimmy Palumbo’s running gag as Artie’s gabbiest teammate runs a bit too long.
Production package is suitably ugly, given the neighborhood. Although pic is going out under title including Lange’s name, burned title on screen is “Beer League.”