No subculture is too obscure, no American obsession too puerile, to be lampooned by the mockumentary -- a cultishly beloved cinematic phenomenon that has essentially become the action movie for dweebs. Case in point: ''Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story," an improvisational tour de farce about the video-game-like fantasies lived out by suburban paintball fanatics.
Unseated from his throne as paintball prince by a cheating incident 10 years earlier, erstwhile hero Bobby Dukes (Rob Corddry) returns to recapture his glory by assembling a ragtag bunch of misfits to compete in the Hudson Valley Paintball Classic -- a competition that amounts to a pigment-splattered version of capture the flag. Tarnished but not toppled by his youthful mistake, the balding 'baller takes his wobbly, mostly 30-something teammates under his wing, teaching them the ''art" of the sport.
Fueled by off-kilter characters, charming and funny -- if haltingly awkward -- dialogue, and a reasonable amount of thematic ingenuity, ''Blackballed" succeeds as a modest tribute to the kind of aging boys club that idles for hours in somebody's parents' rumpus room, its members tossing around big-man talk but trapped in emotional adolescence.
Led by ''Daily Show" veteran and Boston native Corddry, and supported by a band of improv idiot savants (Paul Scheer, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, and Dannah Feinglass of Upright Citizens Brigade), ''Blackballed" was a bit of an indie darling upon its release in 2004, taking awards at Boston's Independent Film Festival and Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It now enjoys a limited run in the wake of cheesy not-quite-sports movies like Ben Stiller's ''Dodgeball" and the new Rob Schneider/David Spade vehicle ''The Benchwarmers."
After Christopher Guest's catalog of mocku-masterpieces (including ''Best in Show" and ''Waiting for Guffman"), most other contributions to this genre fall pretty flat. But while ''Blackballed" does succumb to easy gags and profanity-as-comedy, its perfectly timed and restrained performances -- specifically by Corddry, Scheer, and Riggle -- keep the on-screen discomfiture in check. And the development of Bobby Dukes's character as a kind of enlightened Everyman is a tender touch to a flick that is unsurprisingly laced with sex and potty jokes.
The hilarious ''battle" scenes on the playing field and the team's training antics are highlights, too, proving that ''Blackballed" is as much about the unifying power of violent team sports as about watching everybody grow up around you.
Erin Meister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.