I love comedies. I don’t love sports. But I do love the sports comedy sub-genre. These four films rise to the top of the ranks in my book (along with the best sports comedy ever, Caddyshack, which I’ve blogged about previously and will probably write about again).
The Bad News Bears (1976) was a favorite of mine as a kid, though it’s really not a “family movie.” Walter Matthau stars as Coach Morris Buttermaker, the curmudgeonly down-and-out coach of a terrible little league baseball team full of foul mouthed boys. That is, until Coach recruits Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O’Neal), who’s pitch is good enough to turn the team’s luck around, if the rest of the team would only accept her. It’s an interesting combination of the benefits of grit and perseverance alongside cynicism and lots of rude, crude (but funny) humor.
For a gentler baseball film, check out A League of Their Own (1992). Here we find another curmudgeonly down-and-out coach, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) who is the reluctant coach of the Rockport Peaches, part of the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League during World War II. The Peaches are defined by the rivalry between sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty), and a stellar supporting cast (Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Jon Lovitz) make this a heartwarming film with plenty of belly laughs, but it’s Hanks playing against type with his “there’s no crying in baseball” rant that is the movie’s most memorable moment.
Kingpin (1996), the second feature from the Farrelly Brothers is sandwiched between their two biggest comedies – Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary – but this is worthy enough stand on its own. Woody Harrelson stars as Roy, a bowling star who’s career ends abruptly when he loses his bowling hand while hustling with “frenemy” Ernie (Bill Murray). When he teams up with an Amish bowling prodigy named Ishmael (Randy Quaid), Roy meets up with his nemesis as they reach the national championship. It’s vulgar, it’s offensive, it’s ludicrous, and it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen, period.
Lastly we have Dodgeball (2004) in all of its glorious stupidity. Vince Vaughn is Peter, owner of Average Joe’s, a run down gym that’s under threat by corporate Globo Gym and it’s owner, the smarmy White Goodman (Ben Stiller), unless he can raise $50,000 to keep it running. What’s a better fundraiser than a dodgeball tournament? Nothing! The killer supporting cast includes Christine Taylor, Justin Long, Joel David Moore, Rip Torn, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, Jason Bateman, and a cameo by Lance Armstrong.