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DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (PG-13) (2004)

Twentieth Century Fox

Official Site

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Producers: Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller

Written by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Stephen Root, Joel Moore, Alan Tudyk, Gary Cole, Jason Bateman, Hank Azaria

 Rating:


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 (Stiller) 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.

—Mike O’Connor

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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