Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Reviewed By Josh Gryniewicz
Posted 07/08/04 03:14:17

"Juvenile + predictability + brutal slapstick = hilarious entertainment"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

What is it about watching someone get socked in the head with a wrench or clobbered in the balls or repeating the word "balls" in every permutation of pun that can be applied which reduces a packed theater of adults into a gang of giddy giggling "Beavis & Butthead" eighth graders? I don’t know either, but for some reason it works.

"Dodgeball" takes the formulaic underdog sport parody (outcast underachiever vs. the elite in a winner – takes – all competition) with the ideal set-up for full-contact slapstick savagery while providing a revisit to every cliché aspect of the unlikely – athletic – champs – overcoming – adversity genre. From the has-been coach with eccentric methodology, Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn) to the rehashed training montage sequences, here featuring heaved monkey wrenches cracking skulls with hysterically violent results.

Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) is owner of the fittingly named Average Joe’s Gym – a home to the geeky, the lame, the losers and the otherwise strange comedic characters well beyond off – beat. It is an assortment of rejects including the socially inept, the outcast and the psychologically deluded each who call Joe’s their home. Gordon (Stephen Root) is an emotionally stifled dejected geek loathed by his mail-order bride. Justin (Justin Long) is a high school loser who has pinned his hopes for coolness and his desire to win his dream girl by being a cheerleader. Steve (Alan Tudyk) believes that he is a pirate (as in "Yar, me be Steve the pirate"), Owen (Joel Moore) is an utterly clueless gym manager and Dwight (Chris Williams).

Fifty grand in debt, La Fleur stands to loose the gym to White Goodman (Ben Stiller) owner of the odious corporate giant Globo Gym (motto: "We are better than you and we know it") who would rather see it as a parking lot than let La Fleur own it. The Average Joe’s last hope hangs on a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament, which Goodman, of course, enters as well to spite the Joe’s. Globo Gym’s Purple Cobras (not as in Karate Kid’s Cobra Kai, but as in G.I. Joe nemeses) will inevitably be the last team standing to square off against the Joe’s.

Stiller’s mustachioed zany camp caricature of a villain with puffy highlighted hair is as self-absorbed and dim-witted as his Zoolander and as enjoyable to watch, like "Zoolander" (2001) the combination of goofy facial expressions and remarkable stupidity give the character a memorable easy – to – emulate quality. Vaughn’s, Bill Murray – esque dead pan delivery for La Fleur is the perfect balance to Stiller’s over-the-top Goodman. Stephen Root as Gordon is almost as entertaining as his classic Milton performance from "Office Space" (1999), but the real show stealers however are the parade of hilarious surprise cameos (none of which would be fair to give away.)

"Dodgeball" has enough quality material to place it into that transcendent comedy cult canon of oft-quotable-for-every-occasion lines, few movies can achieve this status, but this film will get funnier with each viewing – I’m sure of it.

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