Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story
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Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story

Improv may be the most macho form of comedy, because it's all about jokesters going mano-a-mano, and proving how long they can riff in character. Brant Sersen's indie mockumentary Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story features a cast of improv veterans, led by The Daily Show's Rob Corddry, who plays a disgraced paintball champion looking to make a comeback. Corddry was drummed out of competitive paintball 10 years earlier for "wiping"—trying to clear a paint stain from his shirt before the referee could see it—and when he returns to the scene of his humiliation, he finds that the game has been co-opted by extreme-sports marketers. As Corddry pieces together a team of misfits to take a run at the "Hudson Valley Paintball Classic," Blackballed plays out in a string of sketches that gently prick the self-delusions of geeky subcultures.

Unlike big, spoofy sports comedies like Dodgeball or The Benchwarmers, Blackballed is more concerned with getting its milieu right. Though hardcore paintballers might quibble with some of the details, anyone who's ever tried to go home and recapture past glories will recognize Blackballed's string of unfurnished apartments (where Corddry's friends live), finished basements (where his family hangs out), and gray, rainy days. This is a movie about people trying to squeeze maximum recognition and pride out of the one thing they do reasonably well, and much of Blackballed's comedy comes from their attempts to maintain their dignity when they fail.

A lot of the gags work well, like the opening sequence, which recreates the Corddry cheating incident with Masters Of The Universe toys, or the paintball rounds, which usually devolve into trash-talk like "Kick their ass so hard that their ass goes up their own ass!" and "I am fucking you in the face!" But while there's some dramatic interest in seeing how the story wraps, Blackballed pretty much wears out by midpoint. The problem, ironically, is the improvised dialogue, which pushes some scenes to the point where the actors start to break character slightly, and let reality drift into absurdity. Is it wrong to ask a comedy to cut some jokes to save the story? Or would that be the improv equivalent of "wiping?"

Filed Under: Film

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