'Benchwarmers' Shows a Softer Side of Schneider

EntertainmentMoviesRob SchneiderAdam SandlerMolly SimsDavid SpadeRoger Ebert

There's something immediately off-putting about Rob Schneider's performance in the new comedy "The Benchwarmers." He doesn't talk with a funny accent. He isn't obviously development challenged. The manic actor is abnormally normal.

"Well Adam [Sandler] just wanted me to play myself," admits Schneider who is, indeed, always reliably subdued with the press. "He said 'Come on, no one has ever seen that.' So he would actually come on the set and say, 'No, no, no, no... Come on... No, no, no, no. Just be yourself.' [I] have a tendency to be want to be goofy."

In "Benchwarmers," Schneider plays an outcast -- albeit one with a beautiful wife played by Molly Sims -- who joins forces with two even less mainstreamed buddies (David Spade and Jon Heder) to beat a bunch of Little Leagues in a baseball tournament. With Spade and Heder delivering the quirky character performances, Schneider is left to carry the movie as almost a typical leading man. He even gets to show off some unexpected hardball skills.

"I wouldn't say natural-born," Schneider laughs. "I would say 'Trained for 3 months before the movie.' You didn't see the ones where I didn't hit well."

It was only after he was well into production that Schneider says he realized that even if Sandler, a producer on "Benchwarmers," was suggesting he play the part like Rob Schneider, the character was really based, very loosely, on Sandler himself. Sound confusing? It is. Schneider hopes that even without any cameos from his "Big Daddy" co-star, "Benchwarmers" will still capture some of Sandler's magic with audiences of all ages.

"It's not like we are aiming for kids, but Adam Sandler has that kind of teenage boy angst-id down," he says. "[O]ne of our favorite movies when we were kids was 'Caddyshack,' so this seems to me like a 'Caddyshack'-ish movie. It's got more jokes per minute then any of Adam's other movies and he was really hands on in it."

Of course, even if this film displays a different kind of Schneider, that doesn't mean you can get through an interview with the "Saturday Night Live" veteran without moving into the sensitive territory of his punchy relationship with entertainment reporters like Roger Ebert.

I take pride in that," he announces.

As if to reinforce that point, Schneider continues, "You know, my reviewers that I care about are the ones who go and have to get a babysitter on Friday night and it's their one night of the month that they are going to go out and they want to have a good time and... they have to spend a hundred bucks you've got the babysitter, maybe they are going to go eat, they've got to buy some crappy popcorn, they've got to park really far away, they got to get in line, they're gonna get a seat and when the lights come down, give them a good show."

Schneider hopes "The Benchwarmers" gives those reviews a good show when it opens on Friday, April 7.

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