Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2006
Film Length: 80 minutes
1.85:1 Theatrical Ratio
English Uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 Surround
English 5.1 Surround
French 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
Release Date: July 25, 2006.
Film Rating: /
Starring: Rob Schneider (Gus), David Spade (Richie), John Heder (Clark), Jon Lovitz (Mel)
Written by: Allen Covert & Nick Swardson
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
It’s never too late to take a stand.
This film goes out to all of the nerdy kids who never had the chance to play baseball. If you were teased and bullied by schoolmates and you felt intimidated to join sports teams because you feared the jocks, or maybe you were on a team but were never given the chance to play – you were just a benchwarmer - this film could give you a little inspiration for the hope that you can overcome those fears…
Gus is your average neighbourhood worker who knows what is right and wrong. He becomes friends with grown-up geeks – the local paperboy Clark and video store employee Richie. These three grown men were teased, and still are teased by local jocks. They see kids in the area, who have a passion for baseball, get pushed around by bullies. Even though Richie and Clark have never played a ball game in their life, the three of them decide to beat these bullies at their own game by playing the teams who think they can push around anyone. This sets the film up for some funny moments. With the help of Mel - a mega-rich geek, they will build a new stadium for all kids to enjoy. There is only one problem – a secret - Gus really isn’t who he appears to claim and he’ll have to find closure for some of the ghosts in his past.
VIDEO QUALITY 7/10
I’ve decided to rank the video quality of these discs on a 1-10 scale. A Blu-Ray score of 5 will mean that it is similar to the best-looking DVD I can think of and the remaining 5-10 will be based on the extended resolution of Blu-Ray disc. I think this is the best way to rank these titles for now so I hope this will help you to determine what a reference HD disc is. As more BDs become available and authoring improves (as was in the early DVD days) the earliest titles I’ve ranked as “10” may not appear as “reference quality” anymore. Please note that I’m currently viewing this on a 1280x720 projector and I’m not even able to see half of the 1920x1080 information on this disc. In the simplest terms, instead of seeing 6x the resolution of DVD I’m only seeing 2.6x the improvement. Our display devices have a long way to go before we can see all of the picture information contained on these discs. This disc was reviewed on the Samsung BD-P1000 on a 35-foot Monster M1000HDMI to a calibrated PT-AE700 (D6500/D5400B&W). The screen is a D110" (8-foot wide) Da-Lite Cinema Contour (w.Pro-Trim finish) and Da-Mat fabric.
The Benchwarmers is presented in 1.85:1 as a small amount of unused black area can be seen at the top and bottom of the picture. For my second BD viewing of a full-length film, the image is impressive. The more Blu-Rays I watch, the better I’ll be able to rank the image between them. Depth perception is much better than DVD – the opening titles over the moving image seem to float out from the screen and the closing credits of a film have never looked so defined. What makes the image so pleasing is the absence of edge enhancement – there isn’t a trace here – and compression artefacts. Some film grain can be seen in some parts of the picture, mostly in the trees in the far far distance.
All of the details in the picture come to life – you can count the freckles on kids’ faces, you can see the sweat and veins popping out of the arms of the coaches, you can see the fine textures in the jerseys of the teams – all of this would be lost on DVD. What makes the jump to Blu-Ray even more impressive is the improved colour resolution – if you think you’ve seen nice blue skies on DVD, this film has plenty of them! The film is shot mostly outdoor on the baseball diamond so the camera angles tend to look up from the catcher’s point of view when the batter is up. This film has excellent contrast with solid black levels that have never looked so deep even on a bulb projector.
If there was one thing to pick at of this film is the slightly pasty look of the colours. While definition is great and colours pop out, it has that crayon kinda look to it that doesn’t make it seem real enough. After watching a trailer for the film Click (featured on this disc) you can see the mega difference in image quality between the two.
PCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 7/10
DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 6/10
For the sake of consistency with the video, I’m going to rate uncompressed PCM (and eventually the lossless audio compression formats when available), as well as lossy Dolby Digital and DTS on a scale from 1-10. This rating is based on “satisfaction” – the highest score delivering the greatest amount of satisfaction and the lowest delivering the least. When defining satisfaction, I mean both the resolution of the audio as well as the sound design for the film. I’m listening for the best experience possible.
As far as sound quality goes, you’ll be pleased with the balanced nature of this soundtrack. Bass and treble are never exaggerated and bass can be found in all channels too. LFE isn’t that prominent but does provide a good effect or two for the transducer. I chose to listen to the uncompressed PCM soundtrack on this disc because it is miles ahead of the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 option. There seems to be a slight volume difference between the two, possibly up to 3dB, but there are significant differences between these soundtracks – more significant that what I’ve heard when comparing Dolby Digital to half-bitrate DTS and between Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus on HD-DVD.
The uncompressed PCM 5.1 experience does not favour any frequency. No matter what I heard – the music, the main effects, the ambience effects, dialogue, it all sounded much better than lossy Dolby Digital. In direct comparison you can clearly hear Dolby Digital discarding audio data – all sounds appear to be missing part of itself. There is the perceived effect that the Dolby soundtrack seems to emphasize some frequencies more than others because audio data has been removed. So compared to the uncompressed PCM (I believe it is 16bit/48KHz), the Dolby soundtrack is very lacking with many sounds subdued more than others. Only with the uncompressed PCM soundtrack will you hear more of the soundtrack and have a pleasing experience.
(Note: you must have the 6-channel output of your Blu-Ray player connected to an EXT-IN on your receiver/preamp to take advantage of this right now or the use of HDMI).
TACTILE FUN!! /
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
LFE was limited in this film, but for Gus’s grand-slam home runs there is a nice pulse of bass in the LFE channel that sets the tactile transducer up for a shake. The vibration through the sofa makes the effect and the film that more enjoyable.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
For Blu-Ray, I find the features to be presented unacceptably – all of the features (except one) are 4:3 – and that is fine because they are standard definition features, but what is unacceptable is that they are not automatically refit to be in their original ratios when stretched on a 16:9 screen. I had to watch all of these features stretched and I shouldn’t have to do that nor should I have to hit the re-size button on my projector (I can’t because my aspect ratio locks in HDMI mode).
Four deleted scenes can view viewed – annoyingly without a “play-all” option – and they are widescreen but taken from SD video. They run under 3 minutes total and don’t add much to the film so don’t worry, don’t think you are missing much from the film!
There are four featurettes:
Mr. October - is a featurette dedicated to Reggie Jackson who plays a short part in this film. Interviews are with Mr. Jackson as well as the cast of The Benchwarmers (8m15s)
Play Ball - is a take on the game from the actors and director (6m06s)
Nerds and Bullies - actors interviews about nerds and bullies mixed up with clips from the film.
Who’s On Deck - the only feature in HD, but nothing to love – it’s just a collection of scenes of the character Howie to the tune of some music (2.43)
You also have the choice to listen to two audio commentaries: one from director Dennis Dugan (who isn’t that exciting to listen to) and the other from David Spade and Jon Heder (equally as unexciting). I would have hoped that the Spade/Heder commentary would have been funny, but it was disappointing…mostly just talk…
Lastly, you can find two previews in high definition: Click and RV.
IN THE END...
The Benchwarmers is an alright film to come from Madison Productions but not one of the better ones. It has a simple plot and a predictable resolution but it does provide for some entertainment. The Blu-Ray disc is impressive and offers more resolution in both audio and video than what DVD can deliver.
July 21, 2006.