Division III: Football’s Finest
March 15, 2005
Starring: Andy Dick, Marshall Cook, Bryan Callen, Michael Jace, Mo Collins, Paul Henderson, Kevin Covais, Alison Haislip, Will Sasso, Adam Carolla, Debra Wilson, Sally Kirkland, Bru Muller, Tyler Sedustine, Taymour Ghazi,
Like motability scooters in supermarkets, America does sports comedies better than us Brits. Exhibit A, m’lud: Slap Shot, Horse Feathers and The Bad News Bears versus Blackball, The Calcium Kid and Up ‘n’ Under. I may be doing the British film industry a bit of a disservice, come to think of it – Gregory’s Girl and Porridge are great films that have an element of sport, but when it comes to turning a team of misfits into winners using unconventional training methods and montages, the Yanks have cornered the market.
“A Little bit country, a little bit bi-polar”
Division III: Football’s Finest follows the fortunes of the Pullham University Bluecocks, a liberal arts institution with an American football team in the lowest rank of the National Collegiate Athletic Association – the titular third division. When the team’s coach dies suddenly, college president Georgia Anne Whistler (Mo Collins) seizes the opportunity to generate media attention by hiring convicted felon and psychopath Coach Rick Vice (Andy Dick) along with his hulking sidekick Bob Delgirt (Paul Henderson). Naturally, his aim is to galvanize the team into winning, but not by cooing encouragement into their ears or unorthodox training techniques that pay off in unsuspecting ways. Instead, Vice uses a subtle blend of screaming, physically attacking his players at any given opportunity and teabagging to motivate his team, including borderline alcoholic quarterback Mitch DePrima (Marshall Cook).
“If they don’t produce a winning record next season, it will be the end of the football… people”
Usually, if you’ve seen one sports comedy, you’ve pretty much seen them all. However, Division III defies expectations by playing with some of the usual sports movie tropes: staples such as ‘put me in, coach!’ and the motivational speech are subverted. DePrima, the movie’s nominal hero, is pretty apathetic towards his talent and even admits that he has no desire to win. Giving hope to nerds everywhere is Allen Schwartz (Kevin Covais), at around 110lbs soaking wet, is more popular with the fairer sex than anyone else and is one of the few characters who is appreciably sane.
“This is coming from a man that’s got a colostopy tube shoved up his JIMMY WANG?”
At the heart of the movie is Andy Dick’s performance. He brings a frothing intensity to it rarely seen this side of a Nicholas Cage film. Whether he’s in the grip of a squeaking apoplexy or magisterially breaking a clipboard over somebody’s head, his hilarious turn as the racist hilly-billy Vice is an object lesson in scenery chewing. In fact, if the scenery was Boba Fett, Andy Dick would be the Sarlacc Pit. His handle-’stached Gunnery Sergeant Hartman wannabe doesn’t get all the best lines, though; Paul Henderson, who co-wrote the script, snagged some for himself including a memorable pre-game prayer and some great one-liners. This is no mean feat, given the strong cast which includes Adam Carolla (Family Guy), Bryan Callen (The Hangover Part II) and Will Sasso (the upcoming Three Stooges remake).
“Looked like somebody had set her face on fire and put it out with a bicycle chain…”
Great performances aside, the film would fail as a comedy were it not funny. Although it’s a story we’ve seen before, some smart dialogue, inspired swearing and excellent slapstick set it apart from the crowd. The football scenes are beautifully shot, and are easily up there with films of twenty times the budget. As with the better sports comedies, no knowledge of the sport is needed to appreciate them, making this perfect cult fodder for a Saturday night in with a beer and a curry. Recommended.