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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Jason Bateman, Rip Torn

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Produced by: Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller
Written by:
Rawson Marshall Thurber
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

 

Vince Vaughn  in 20th Century Fox's Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Justin Long and Lori Beth Denberg in 20th Century Fox's Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in 20th Century Fox's Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

     The needlessly long title, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, isnít the only unnecessary thing about this movie. The characters are so one-note and unfunny themselves, the fact that Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn star in it is completely insignificant. The dialogue has no bearing on the product as a whole, only enforcing the obvious plot. And, most importantly, the general crudeness of the film is entirely dispensable, seeing that it ceases to pique a single giggle. But contrary to what some may be led to believe, basing their judgment upon all of its extraneous material, Dodgeball is not a terrible film. In fact, itís somewhat of a fun one, come time for its third act. All of the laughs are generated by humor that places emphasis on costuming, slapstick, and noise. But chuckles are chuckles, and for the most part, they cannot be ignored.

     Vince Vaughnís character, Peter La Fleur, is a bit narrow-minded, to say the least. He is the owner of the ďAverage Joeís Gym,Ē which is located right across the street from the fairly new, revolutionary Globo Gym, headed by White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Peterís business is about to tank, much to his surprise, and if he doesnít come up with the $50,000 dollars to save it, within thirty days, it will be bought off by White. His first attempt at raising money towards his cause, an all-male car wash, is abysmally unsuccessful, leaving him in even more debt. With little hope left, one of the members of Peterís gym discovers, in an eccentric sporting magazine, that the winners of an upcoming national dodge ball tournament in Las Vegas will take home a $50,000 cash prize. And after watching an instructional video on the game conducted by the infamous Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn), taking lessons from the man himself, and winning a regional-championship qualifying match to a girl-scout troop by disqualification, Peterís team is ready for victory. They can taste the gym being saved. But, unexpectedly, White forms a team and enters the tournament, leading the movie to a predictable final match. You see where this is going.

     Iím finding it hard to believe that some critics have actually called Dodgeball nostalgia-inducing, claiming that it made them remember their pasts, which consisted of chucking red balls at other students in their schoolyards. I actually played the game this year in high school physical education, but thoughts of my own personal dodge ball experiences didnít come to mind when viewing this movie. I simply found its content to be absolutely ridiculous; it didnít even occur to me that the hoopla the characters engaged in could actually be called a sport. Nevertheless, the competition in Dodgeball feels alive and happening, especially when set to its loud Rock ĎN Roll soundtrack. The third act is the part of the movie in which most of the actual competition occurs, and perhaps, this is why I find it to be the only really redeeming portion of the movie.

     Stiller and Vaughn are nowhere near as hilarious as they usually are because the script wonít allow for such. The two are confined to using brain-dead, palindromic lines of dialogue, finding little room for creativity in their deliveries. It is only when they refrain from speaking that pure hilariousness can be found. As Whiteís team systematically march out into the dodge ball rink pretending to be snakes, itís hard to keep oneself from laughing. However, the most comical scene in the movie takes place when Peterís crew receives the wrong uniforms; they are delivered S&M outfits that a gothic gang ordered, to play in. But, because they have no time to switch them, and must follow the rules, by wearing matching sets of clothes, the strange, leather-bearing suits serve as their only possible ticket into competition. The announcers on the station broadcasting the dodge ball tournament, ESPN 8 (ďThe OchoĒ), are also a riot. However, Dodgeballís efforts seem pretty pathetic when these three situations are the only ones I laughed at, when it is a come

     Whatever small comedic resonance Dodgeball may hold with its viewers, this cannot save it from being a thoroughly lackluster attempt at moviemaking. Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber is trying noticeably hard to please us with his pictureís most disgusting gags, proving only one thing. No matter how bad you may want an audience to enjoy limpid crap, theyíre not going to. Even I could pen a wittier screenplay than Thurber has, and that is a very sad truth, considering the inspired talent involved in Dodgeball. Somehow, though, the small bits of cleverness in it prevail, almost making it worthy of a rental (itíll definitely make for a fun viewing if it ever airs on cable TV). I have never been more aware that dodge ball could be such a lively, fierce ďsportĒ.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (6.20.2004)


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