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"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story"

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Written by Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Starring Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor and Rip Torn.
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 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: 

  1. 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.

  2. The cameos.  Whereas the cameos in films like "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 great.

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.

Rating:  Matinee


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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 "Office Space"). 

"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, 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 half stars." 

"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 Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09