A group of friends reunite to play The Buddy Games, a wild assortment of absurd physical and mental challenges. In the process, they’ll heal old wounds, right past wrongs and figure out the true meaning of friendship…or die trying.
Josh Duhamel dons three hats for this raucous and raunchy buddy film—co-writer, director, and actor—and looks dapper in all three of them. Known as the “Bobfather,” Bob (Duhamel) orchestrates a yearly gathering for his mates charged by testosterone and the need to compete in crazy physical games. This year, however, things go drastically wrong for poor Shelly (Dan Bakkedahl) and the group is dismantled. Five years pass and the gang reunites, but there’s more at stake this year than just the honor of winning.
Let me start by saying this is one of those films I place in the category of “Guilty Pleasure.” It’s a rather vulgar film, but there’s also a lot of humor stitched throughout the story much like “The Hangover.” If you go into this film knowing what you’re getting, you can let loose and enjoy total escapism and laughter. Now that I have that caution out of the way, let’s dig into this film.
Bob is the leader of the pack and vowed never to host the Buddy Games again, but at the bequest of Shelly’s mom who is desperately trying to find a way to motivate Shelly to live and get out of the nursing facility after his injury, Bob succumbs. Who can say know to your best friend’s mom? As Bob makes his calls to the misfit gang, Bender (Nick Swardson) is omitted from the guest list as he is the perpetrator of Shelly’s now missing testicles. Bob, ever the nice guy and dating Tiff (Olivia Munn) who he met at the previous Buddy Games, attempts to dissuade Bender from attending, but alas, he fails and the group must figure out how to get past their issues.
What makes this movie so much fun besides the over-the-top games they play is the varied personalities of this group. Durfy (Dax Shepard) is the sweet, sensitive wannabe actor. Doc (Kevin Dillon) is an inept chiropractor. Nearly destitute Bender has mommy issues, and vengeful, maniacal Shelly is more competitive than Michael Jordon. Of course, there’s the successful yet humble Bob who leads a charmed life and Tiff while kind on the outside shows us her inner badass.
Co-writers Duhamel, Bob Schwartz, and Jude Weng take us into each of these men’s lives to get us up to speed with what has happened over the course of the last five years. With the varied personalities, this lends itself to off-kilter comedic moments that ultimately play a part of how the men who still seem like boys interact and perform at the Buddy Games. And those games cover all the bases; from corn dog eating contests and performance in a bar after guzzling laxatives to strapping meat on their foreheads with a loose lizard, the games test more than their courage and fortitude. Of course, the antics that ensue between the games are just as ridiculous, most of which are powered by the vengeful Shelly, and give us plenty of laughs.
Duhamel, relaxed and thoroughly enjoying his role, sets up the situations for the laughs while not being the center of attention. Shepard and Dillon take the back seat in this film, adding their unique touch to their characters and the comedy comes naturally. But this is Swardson and Bakkedahl’s film and they relish in their outlandish characters. Bakkedahl’s sarcasm oozes from him in every situation and we can feel his loathing behind his steely gaze upon Swardson’s Bender. And Swardson’s background as a stand up comic is evident in this role with his comedic physicality and delivery of his lines.
“The Buddy Games” is a stereotypical guy movie celebrating the unique friendship and style of interactions of males. There’s no holding back which may be offensive to some, but for others it’s just plain fun; albeit raunchy fun. While most of the film is quite predictable, the ending is not and that is a welcomed surprise.
“The Buddy Games” isn’t a new premise as we’ve seen this many times before, but it does make us laugh. Is it vulgar? Yes. Does it push the envelope? Yes. But isn’t that fun sometimes? Again, the answer is yes.
2 1/2 Stars
One part “Grown-Ups,” one part “Jackass,” this celebration of Peter Pan Syndrome is a mess, not nearly as funny as it wants to be and abandoning any sense of poignancy from the start. Having devoted eight paragraphs praising the film, my esteemed colleague has clearly stated her case. I am going to spend my time a bit more wisely and say this was not my cup of tea, while the decision Duhamel makes at the end defies explanation, a decision even his Neanderthal friends would chastise him for.
1 1/2 Stars