DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY
White Goodman (Ben Stiller) is the egomaniacal owner of Globo Gym, a gleaming monolith of fitness, intent to take over Average Joe's, a rundown gym run by charismatic underachiever Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn). A foreclosing bank has commissioned attorney Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) to finalise the takeover, but she is drawn to Peter and his team of social rejects and wants to help them. In a bid to keep gym ownership, Peter and the team from Average Joe's decide to enter a national Dodgeball competition, hoping to win the $50,000 prize. But White has also entered the competition with his team of burly muscle-rippling colleagues, and the two teams are destined to meet in the finals.
Review by Louise Keller:
Excelling in the brand of 'stoopid' fun that Ben Stiller has patented as his own, Dodgeball is a laugh-a-minute. In his Zoolander-mode, Stiller pouts, struts and flexes his muscles, as the obsessed, over-solariumed, over-coiffed fitness mogul with the manicured moustache, who is really a former fat-boy hiding in a super-toned, ultra-fit exterior. This David and Goliath premise pits a bunch of pasty, unfit losers from a run down gym against the beefy, intimidating Globo Gym team. This is comedy of the all-sorts variety, offering sight gags, slapstick and absurd one-liners. The characters are all caricatures and it never matters much that the storyline is underdeveloped.
Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber makes full use of his cast in this, his debut feature, keeping the tone in a constant state of controlled chaos. The concept of using a sport like dodgeball, is a joke in itself; after all, this game (promoted in the publication Obscure Sports Quarterly) is one of violence, exclusion and degradation, as the aim of the game is to dodge the ball.
Stiller is in fine form and just watching his exaggerated, paranoid egocentric White, is amusing in itself. 'Here at Globo Gym, we're better than you,' he preaches from his ultra-modern gym, where his smarmy presence is splashed everywhere - on plasma television screens, on an over-size mural and life-size cut-out figures. By contrast, Vince Vaughn's straight-man Pete has a sign on his wall that reads 'Failure is an option', and Vaughn has a likeable presence. Christine Taylor (Stiller's wife) grounds the film, and is an affective go-between the two men.
There is plenty of anticipation in the lead up to the climactic dodgeball championship... First there are the training sessions with Rip Torn's wheel-chair bound coach Patches, whose philosophy is 'If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball'. After a hilarious regional heat against a team of girl-guides with killer instinct, we find ourselves at the championships, where the Average Joes are delivered S & M uniforms by mistake. Of course, it's not hard to work out what is going to happen, but the best part is that we really do care. There are a couple of twists (and watch for cameos by Rip Torn, William Shatner, Chuck Norris and David Hasselhoff), but Dodgeball is first and foremost nonsensical and outlandish fun. Don't dodge it.
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DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (M)
CAST: Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Stephen Root, Joel Moore
PRODUCER: Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller
DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber
SCRIPT: Rawson Marshall Thurber
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jerzy Zialinski
EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten
MUSIC: Theodore Shapiro (Christopher Ward, song)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maher Ahmed
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 9, 2004