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The Most Underrated Fred Willard Movie You Need To See

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When Fred Willard died on May 15, 2020, he left behind a gilt comedy legacy that stretched across decades and included hundreds of credits, major and minor, in both film and television. He was working right up until the end - Space Force will be his final credit, and it hadn't yet been released at the time of his death. He also loved running sketch workshops just for the joy of practice, keeping sharp, and working with other up-and-coming improv talent. We know and celebrate him for many roles – it's hard to deny his genius in Best In Show or Waiting for Guffman - but, despite the fame, he was totally willing to appear in much, much smaller projects, some of which never saw distribution beyond the festival circuit. If you're taking time to revisit or perhaps even begin indulging in Willard's extensive filmography, it's worth sparing some time for the projects off the beaten path. We recommend a teeny indie comedy inspired by the works of Christopher Guest, the man responsible for the peak of Willard's career.

In 2014, Lance Kinsey, Lieutenant Proctor of Police Academy fame, finally got the chance to make his directorial debut, after five years' work securing financing, with the sports mockumentary All-Stars, which he also wrote, produced, and stars in. It flashed in and out of theaters due to its small budget and humble profile, but can be found today on Amazon Prime for a humble $4 rental.

A Christopher Guest homage

This is one of the smallest movies you've never heard of stacked with a bunch of talent you recognize: Fred Willard, of course, stars as the president of a girls' softball association, John Carson. The cast, however, also includes Richard Kind, John Goodman, and Angela Kinsey, just to name the most famous few. All-Stars is a sports comedy centered around girls' softball, but this isn't A League of Their Own - think something more akin to every human character, their neurotic relationships, and their obsession with their championship dogs in Best In Show, which Kinsey openly describes as one of his two all-time favorite films (paired incongruously with The Godfather). "Anybody who has ever had anything to do with youth sports, or any youth activities for that matter, will recognize the characters in All-Stars," Kinsey explained in an interview with The Cleveland Movie Blog. "I have known every character in the film through my coaching years. People frequently say that comedy takes reality and then exaggerates it, but there is honestly very little exaggeration when it comes to these characters." It's not so much about the girls trying to have fun playing softball as it is their wacky parents' delusional in their belief that their fourth-grade kid is the next NCAA College World Series teammate.

While this indie movie is so indie that it doesn't have a Rotten Tomatoes score, various reviews from viewers across the Internet are relatively glowing, often citing the stellar comedic cast and, for those who have participated in youth sports, also praising the (if you'll forgive the pun) pitch-perfect depiction of nutty parents' neurotic behavior. In a particularly stunning bit of prescience, just days before Willard's death, The Gazette of Iowa actually put All-Stars on a personal top 15 list of sports movies. At a cozy 97 minutes, it'll breeze right on by in-between Mascots and Roxanne on your celebration-of-life film binge.