Division III: Football’s Finest on Blu-Ray Jan.17

The sports movie genre is pretty bipolar. Sports movies jump from the maudlin (“Rudy! Rudy!”) to the asinine (“Dogs can’t play basketball!”) with very few steps in between. Division III: Football’s Finest is definitely closer to the latter, but holds on to reality enough to stay out of Air Bud territory (a good call, considering how that terrain is marked).

That is not to say the movie does not reach heights of ridiculousness. With Andy Dick, Paul Henderson, and no less than four MadTV alumni in the cast, Division III is host to several characters that would seem over-the-top in a cartoon, but the film stays grounded enough to be aware of its own silliness. Most importantly, Division III is very funny, easily on par with a first-tier Happy Madison comedy.

Expect first-time feature director Marshall Cook, pulling quadruple duty here, to graduate to the big leagues in no time at all. His comic instincts are good both on camera, as a slacker quarterback, and off, directing, editing, and co-writing (along with Dick and Henderson). Thanks to Cook and company, most of the gags hit home, and the movie never dwells on those that don’t.

The Blu-Ray release gives the discerning home audience the hat-trick of special features: deleted scenes, outtakes, and audio commentary. The deleted scenes are worth watching but probably wise cuts; nothing kills comedy faster than overlength. The outtakes, many of which can be seen in the end credits, are infectiously funny.

Cook and Dick provide a feature commentary that gives insight into both of their efforts. Cook intimates just how low the budget must have been; the movie was apparently made on favors, faith, and energy drinks. Dick comes off as thoughtful, even demure, as he talks about his reticence in playing such an outlandish character. Hearing this reservation gives us a deeper appreciation of his swing-for-the-fences performance.

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