Sticking to the unorthodox documentary playbook that made his 2006 Miami drug wars film, “Cocaine Cowboys,” such an entertainingly wild ride, filmmaker Billy Corben’s “Screwball” takes on the 2013 Major League Baseball doping scandal with similarly gonzo results.
The perfect entry point to the story is found in Tony Bosch, an unlicensed Key Biscayne growth hormone peddler and a true character (the role would be a natural for Ben Stiller or Oscar Isaac if they ever do a studio version) who built up a loyal clientele of professional athletes, most notoriously former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez.
Trading off narrator duties with Bosch, whose anti-aging clinics shared space with a chain of tanning salons, is Porter Fischer, a “professional tanner” who would ultimately take down Bosch, and Tim Elfrink, the then-Miami New Times journalist whose resulting exposé would rip the lid off one of the greatest controversies in MLB history.
Corben sees fit to throw a bizarre change-up by implementing dramatic reenactments in which the roles of Bosch, Fischer, Elfrink and A-Rod, among others, are played by look-alike kids who lip-sync portions of the recounting à la Michael Peña in the “Ant-Man” movies.
Inevitably, the oddball Elmore Leonard-meets-the Little Rascals conceit loses some of its wacky effectiveness, but while Corben might not hit this one out of the park, “Screwball” energetically rounds the bases.
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills