Everyone’s talking about dodgeball lately—the
competitors of “Average Joe: Hawaii”
recently played it on the reality show, and soon
the Game Show Network will feature “Extreme
Dodgeball.” I haven’t thought much about
the game in 20 years, but evidently Ben Stiller,
unlike me, has his finger on the pulse of the nation.
The popular actor (There’s Something About
Mary, Meet The Parents) has produced
and starred in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,
a moderately entertaining summer comedy from first-time
feature director Rawson Marshall Thurber.
concerns the fate of Peter LaFleur (Vaughn
and the employees and clients of his run-down gym,
Average Joe’s. When evil and stupid White Goodman
) tries to annex Average Joe’s
to his Globo Gym empire, Peter and friends enter a
Las Vegas dodgeball tournament in hopes of raising
the money to pay off his debts. Hearing of their plans,
White enters a team in the same tournament, leading
to a climactic dodgeball showdown.
And that, gentle reader, is all that anyone needs
to know, for even by the standards of frivolous
summer movies, Dodgeball is formulaic. The
beautiful attorney (Stiller’s wife Taylor)
sent by the bank to work with Peter not only falls
for him, but also turns out to be good at dodgeball!
Broken-down and wheelchair-riding dodgeball legend
Patches O’Houlihan (Torn) sees the
team and becomes their coach. Team member Gordon
(Root, who looks like his character in Office
Space, but sounds like his other character in
“King of the Hill”), can only throw
the ball hard when he’s angry. When Peter
is feeling low and wants to quit at the last minute,
the team will have to forfeit unless he shows up.
The film is funny enough,
but many of its gimmicks suggest lazy writing. (What
happened to Patches that put him in a wheelchair?
Why does “Steve the Pirate” believe
himself to be a criminal of the high seas?) As for
the actors, only Stiller seems to be working hard
here; the rest of the very talented cast has all
done better work elsewhere. Vaughn has
little to work with, but is still phoning it in.
Hank Azaria has only one scene as the young
Patches in a 1950s-era dodgeball instructional video,
Justin Long (who was hilarious as Warren
Cheswick in the recently deceased TV show “Ed”)
hardly stands out as the love-struck high-schooler,
and Gary Cole (Office Space’s
Lumbergh) and Jason Bateman (Arrested
Development) as the dodgeball commentators only
bring to mind their much funnier counterparts from
Best In Show.
In spite of its flaws,
the sheer goofiness of the premise and likeability
of the cast, as well as a large number of surprise
celebrity cameos, make Dodgeball a pleasant-enough
experience. If you’re looking to sit in the
air conditioning for a couple of hours this summer,
you could do worse.