Tribeca Review: Intramural
Like Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story meets The Longest Yard.
Intramural is a sports comedy with an amazing cast of up-and-coming comedians that debuted at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. It is about Caleb, a fifth year senior afraid of the real world, graduation, and an impending marriage who reassembles his team of misfits for one last run of Intramural football.
Jake Lacy (The Office) stars as Caleb, the lovable underdog afraid of the real world. He plays mainly the straight character, so that the crazier characters can bounce off of him. Nikki Reed is great too as the love interest who has great chemistry with Caleb. Intramural also stars multipe SNL comedians, including Beck Bennet, Kate McKinnon, and Jay Pharoah, as well two out of three members of the internet comedy group BriTanNick, Brian McElhany and Nick Kocher. The standout here, however, is Bennet. He plays Dick, the leader of the rival Intramural team who antagonizes Caleb. Bennet infuses his character with an infectious energy, consistently over-the-top physicality, and he has lots of great one liners.
While it is very funny, the film's story is incredibly derivative of other movies. In particular, characters arcs, scenes, and the story beats play out exactly like the 2004 comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, just about football instead. The filmmakers are completely aware of this, however, and work in lots of self-referential humor, as well as spoofs of the cliche tropes of underdog sports movies. Still, the story just never feels completely original, coming off like a parody of films which are already parodying other films.
Some standout scenes in the film are a very meta montage, as the underdogs train to get into shape for the competition. While it's nothing original, the rapid fire verbal and physical humor makes this one of the funniest scenes of the film. There's also another montage later on in the film summarizing the Intramural season. Rather than going for humor, this sequence is visually stunning, set to some really cool music, and gets you pumped for the championship game. The early romantic scenes are also surprisingly effective, but in the second half of the film, that storyline is pushes to the side, never fully paying off.
Some of the side characters are slightly one note, but each one is given a comedic moment to shine, and a unique trait which ultimately pays off. My biggest complaint is that the two stoner commentators played by Jay Pharaoh and D.C. Pierson are never given material that lives up to their comedic abilities. Most of the commentary scenes felt a little flat in my opinion, despite the two comics being so talented.
Director Andrew Disney packs in so many jokes that some are bound to fall flat, and so many comedians that some fail to stand out. However, what is clear is that everyone on screen had an amazing time making this film as a group of friends goofing around, which translates surprisingly well to the energy on screen.
Overall, Intramural is a hilarious, if not particularly original, film. It makes pretty good use of its large cast of up-and-coming comedians, and has plenty of fun scenes, in particular, the montages.