Sports and movies generally don’t add up commercially or artistically, and “BASEketball” has the heightened entertainment challenge of presenting an invented sport. But while the likelihood of this game becoming an athletic reality is remote, the broad, bawdy antics onscreen will be a slam-dunk at the box office. The vulgar, obvious humor of Zucker brother David and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone elicits easy, guilty laughs, yet the material has an underlying innocence that’s just shy of good clean fun. The film’s physical comedy should translate well internationally and chalk up high scores on video.
In a dolorous preamble, a graven-toned narrator explains that the lure of lucre has transformed professional sports from the Olympic ideal into big business and crass entertainment. The unlikely duo to lead us from this athletic Gomorrah are perpetual adolescents Joe Cooper (Parker) and Doug Remer (Stone).
Finding themselves pitted against two basketball jocks in a game of two-on-two, Coop and Remer quickly change the contest to something “more difficult.” They make the rules up as they play, and BASEketball evolves. Briefly, the position on the court determines whether a sunk basket is anything from a single to a home run. Missed shots can be retrieved by the other team and, most bizarrely, opponents are allowed to sling verbal abuse or indulge in gross-out behavior to throw a shooter off balance.
The game becomes a driveway sensation and sports entrepreneur Ted Denslow (Ernest Borgnine) approaches the boys to buy the game and set up a pro league. Ted likes it because any schnook can play, and he wants to keep its purity intact.
The story’s central conflict concerns Baxter Cain (Robert Vaughn), owner of the Dallas Felons, who wants to make the sport more lucrative through professional endorsements, product placement and the like. But he needs 100% support from team owners.
It looks hopeless until fate steps in when Ted suffocates on a hot dog during the season finals. His widow — trophy bride Yvette (Jenny McCarthy) — is more malleable than her late husband when it comes to raising Cain’s scheme. But Ted has bequeathed the team to Coop, who must win the upcoming season or forfeit ownership to Yvette.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to guess what happens next. Nor is it surprising that there is a romantic element — involving nonsport-nut Jenna (Yasmine Bleeth) — as well as a player who’s the brunt of most of the bad-taste humor.
Zucker directs with the kitchen-sink enthusiasm of his earlier irreverent, scatological delights. He has a keen sense of pacing with the essentially flyweight comic material, and pic’s jaunty nature has an organic, brash look that suits the ragged storytelling and shaggy heroes.
Appropriately, “BASEketball” is blessed with an exceedingly game ensemble. Parker and Stone have a facile rapport, with Parker as adept at low-comedy antics and Stone winningly effecting a sports hero persona.
Bleeth, playing the director of the fictitious Dream Come True Foundation, is the good girl with the bold body language.Vaughn and McCarthy score equal mileage with their evil turns, and Dian Bachar, as a pint-size teammate, is a resilient presence primed for the worst sort of physical and verbal pummeling.