The influence of Christopher Guest is felt throughout “Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story,” a mildly amusing mockumentary about a disgraced paintball champ who wants one more shot. Shattershot comedy pales in comparison with “Best in Show” and “Waiting for Guffman,” but still manages a fair share of chuckles and a few belly laughs. Two years after appearing on the fest circuit, pic finally kicks off a theatrical run April 13 at New York’s Two Boots Pioneer Theater. Delayed release might work in its favor, given lead player Rob Corddry’s increased exposure as a “correspondent” for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
Alternating between staged interviews and faux cinema verite, “Blackballed” charts the comeback trail traveled by Bobby Dukes (Corddry), an ace paintballer who was caught trying to wipe the paint from his jersey after being struck by an opponent during the 1993 Hudson Valley Paintball Classic. Unfortunately, his efforts did not go unnoticed. (A nice touch: The shameful event is re-created with He-Man action figures during an ever-so-solemn prologue.)
After 10 years of self-exile, Bobby returns to Hudson Valley to reclaim his former title. He seeks guidance from a gung-ho paintball coach (DJ Hazard), then assembles a makeshift team that includes a dreamy hippie (Seth Morris), a vidgame addict (Curtis Gwinn), a bellicose ex-Marine (Rob Riggle) and, ironically, the geeky ref (Paul Scheer) who exposed Bobby a decade ago. Erika (Dannah Feinglass), Bobby’s sweetly dippy sister, serves as backup player and, more important, uniform designer.
Working from a scenario he contrived with Brian Steinberg, helmer Brant Sersen gives his actors plenty of time and room to expand and embellish their characters through extended improvisation. Unfortunately, there are a few too many stretches where inspiration is in short supply, and the ensemble simply treads water between truly funny bits.
On the plus side, Corddry effectively underplays while neatly balancing satire and seriousness, serving as the pic’s center of gravity while the other co-stars (most notably, Hazard and Riggle) go over the top to get big laughs. A preliminary match-up against a Canadian paintball team has an enjoyably lunatic edge. And the deliberately jittery hand-held lensing enhances the mockery in this mockumentary.