"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story"
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Written by Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Starring Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor and Rip
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 6/26/04
Gordon "The Professional" Stokes and I
rolled over to the local multiplex to catch the new comedy "Dodgeball:
A True Underdog Story", and much like its title, the first 15
minutes of this flick are strangely awkward, clumsy and even though
they are full of promise these opening moments are incredibly
unfunny. Stiller, who has by anyone's estimate had a bad year
so far in his three other films (yes, he has worked that many times
already!), is well cast but he seems to know that his character's
tendency to wrap sentences around themselves won't be funny to
anyone after the second scene...and, he is the driving force in the
film's opener, as we learn about his Globo-Gym operation.
Then, the filmmakers realize that it's going
to be Vince Vaughn, as local shithole gym operator Pete La Fleur,
and his merry band of losers, led by Gordon (Stephen Root, Milton
from "Office Space"), Justin (Justin Long,
"Jeepers Creepers") and Steve the Pirate (Alan Tudyk), that are
the only people worth watching in the first place, and "Dodgeball"
rights itself in time to be a pleasantly soothing, funny flick.
La Fleur, who is about to see his gym foreclosed upon by a local
bank, has to raise $50,000 in 30 days in order to save his gym, and
the only thing he can come up with is to compete in a national
dodgeball contest that has as its grand prize...you guessed it,
$50,000. Not knowing the first thing about the sport, Pete and
his buddies hire the world's greatest dodgeball player, Patches
O'Houlihan (Rip Torn), to show them how to take it to The Man.
Vaughn has less work to do in "Dodgeball"
than in maybe any other film he has worked in, and it shows; his
scenes are minimal, he rarely needs to reach back for the charm that
got him through so many of his post-"Swingers" roles, and he really
isn't even very funny here. But, his smirks and occasional
smacktalk with the Stiller character, White Goodman, work in this
film. The real comedy comes from two main areas:
The dodgeball scenes, which are poorly
filmed but hilariously loud, thanks to the sound effects of red
rubber balls smacking into all of the players, especially Long,
who antics are Will Ferrell, Three Stooges-style funny in that
he seems to make pain look really, really funny all film long.
The cameos. Whereas the cameos in
"Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" just felt gratuitous, I
thought the cameos in the last half-hour of "Dodgeball" were
almost all perfect: David Hasselhoff? Chuck Norris?
William Shatner, with a classic "I...don't know...what to tell
you!" bit? The best? Lance Armstrong, who actually
makes cancer funny? Man, the cameos in "Dodgeball" are
Bits like the made-up "ESPN 8: The Ocho" are
great; Gary Cole, who worked with Root in "Office Space", is almost
as funny here in a smaller role. As announcer Cotton McKnight,
he has half a dozen inspired, nonsensical, guffaw-worthy lines, and
his delivery makes you think about what made Fred Willard so good in
"Best in Show."
Christine Taylor, once again appearing
courtesy of her husband Stiller, is still quite useless; beautiful,
sure, but useless. She has ridden the fame that came from
funny roles in "The Brady Bunch" movies, gotten married, and should
quietly fade into obscurity. Her scenes with Stiller in "Dodgeball",
as well as her screen presence in general, don't register here at
all, so anytime we are not watching a dodgeball game, the film lulls
you to sleep. The only other major negative is that, even
though the dodgeball is badly filmed, I think it would have been
wise to at least feature longer dodgeball games; it seemed to be
over as fast as an arm-wrestling match, and that took away from the
charm of watching, say, The Lumberjacks get beaned by dodgeballs for
three minutes at a time.
Solid for $6. Otherwise, you are
rolling the dice.
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard