What you may not know, as we prepare to discuss freshman director Matthew Cook’s film ‘Division III: Football’s Finest’ is that I, like so many other ‘not quite good enough athletes’ am a Division III luminary. Basketball was my sport, though if my school were big enough to have had a football team, I would’ve gladly been sub-mediocre in that as well. In fact, and you can look this up, I believe I am listed as one of the great shooters in Division III basketball history. Not scorers, since I didn’t make many baskets, but in the ratio of shots taken per minutes played, I was near the top. So I can relate to the trails and tribs of the Pulham University Blue Cocks… and you can see the wacky humor erupting from the name alone… Division III 4 Lyfe baby!
Due to the tragic, and very comedic death of the Blue Cocks current coach, the team has an opening for a new one. Not surprisingly, the Blue Cocks aren’t a very good team and have lost for so long and so consistently that if they don’t have a winning record this season, the football program will be shut down. Yes, the current Dean of the this school, one Georgia Ann Whistler (Mo Collins) has a Former All-America Safety in Roy Goodwin (Michael Jace) already serving as Athletic Director and would be the logical choice as coach, but Dr. Whistler wants to make a splash. For this she hires former convict Ray Vice (Andy Dick) whose last gig almost resulted in the death of an entire team of peewee league players. He’s the one.
Also on this team is the defacto hero of this movie, third string QB Mitch DePrima (Cook) who spends his days not practicing very hard, and his nights not working very hard at the bar he tends, where he drinks three for every one he serves.
The first thing the Blue Cocks need to do is get used to their coaches odd training techniques, which includes working them to death in scorching heat and not giving them any water, or jousting them in the ass with a first down marker, whilst riding a bike and yelling nuggets like ‘This is Camelot Bitch!’ Or teabagging his players while they lift weights. In case you’re curious, there was nudity in this movie, but most of it belonged to Andy Dick. Yet I am still going to give this movie a positive recommendation.
There’s also a pretty girl who our hero has the hots for in Jennifer the Trainer (Alison Haislip) who, of course, doesn’t date football players. Until she starts dating football players.
You know the routine. The players suck, the coach is out of control, they’re losing, the team sucks, it’s looking grim. Then after a subtle tweak here and there, the players are on board with the plan, they’re doing better, and now they are playing with heart and soul. Also, to what we hope is to little surprise, is that it’s going to come down to the final game of the season, against a hated rival, and that final game is going to come down to the last play where our loser third stringer finally has a chance to be able to realize his true potential AND get the girl. I wonder what’s going to happen?
As you may have noticed, at least as far as the story goes, Marshal Cook’s ‘Division III: Football’s Finest’ contributes nothing… and I mean nothing… to the narrative lexicon of football movies. Nothing. In fact it may even subtract from the Football Movie Narrative because it is so rote in its presentation. This could be a good thing to some, since a lot of us don’t like our sports movies to be messed with. We want last second plays, losers who become winners, pretty girls who don’t date … insert athlete here… until they start dating that athlete. If that’s you, then this movie will not let you down on that end.
But more pressing than the tired story infused in this movie, one calling itself a comedy, is if it is funny. Why yes it is. It is very funny. And offensive. Sometimes maybe a little too offensive. Like maybe the director needed to listen to his editor and leave a couple bits on the cutting room floor for the DVD deleted scenes. Oh wait, Mr. Cook edited his own movie... scratch that suggestion. Still, the movie is consistently funny and this is mostly due to the much reviled Andy Dick. Personally, I don’t have anything against the man. How could I? I don’t know him and I tend not to have personal feelings towards folks I don’t know. Except for Adolf Hitler. I don’t like that guy. But do I know a lot of people dislike Andy Dick for whatever reason, but his helter skelter, manic portrayal of Coach Vice made this movie go. Sure, I could’ve gone for looking at his ass at little less, and the next time I see Dick’s nutsack will result in someone getting punched in the face… cutting room floor Marshall Cook… but he was funny in this movie.
But Dick wasn’t the only source of humor as this was one of those wacky comedies where the humor comes constantly and from all directions and like any wacky comedy it’s not always going to hit paydirt, but this one hit on far more occasions than it missed. Will Sasso’s color commentary for the final game was particularly precious.
The bottom line is that ‘Division III: Football’s Finest’ made me laugh. Instead of calling the story ‘tired’, we’ll call it ‘tried and true’. I’m thinking the director probably had ten guys in uniform but he did his damndest to make it look like an entire squad. And while the on field football play didn’t look like, I don’t know, ‘Any Given Sunday’, but instead of ‘amateurish’ we’ll call it ‘gritty realism’. When you can make somebody laugh, you can get away with some stuff.