Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

***

Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

Six films for Ben Stiller in one year must make him pretty tired. Not tired enough though, as he clearly worked out pretty hard to get into shape to fill the part of grotesque gym owner White Goodman. It is this very same gym owner who uses lawyer Kate Veatch (Stiller's wife Christine Taylor) to finalise Goodman's purchase of small time gym Ordinary Joes, whose owner Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) has no way of finding 50 grand in time to save his gym. And so he and his members are forced to enter a dodgeball competition in the hope of winning the prize money.

Dodgeball is written and directed by newbie Rawson Marshall Thurber, who waits about 15 minutes before starting to deliver the jokes. Parts of the early dialogue fall flat, but, as the story progresses and Stiller is given more lines, there develops an occasional flourish of witticisms. Don't expect any cutting one-liners. This is a more sarcastic script.

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Although not the main character, Stiller is the source of most of the laughs. He has a presence on screen and a bouncy, active style that draws you in. This works well opposite Vaughn's more laid back approach which, while falling comfortably into the character of an ordinary Joe, is also funny with his dry delivery that you don't expect and, therefore, all the more enjoyable for it.

The background characters are given a high profile in the story line, which is not supported by any further development. Things start promisingly with a flashback of Justin's (Justin Long) attempt at joining the cheerleading squad, explaining why he is a gym enthusiast, but this is all we are given, and without additional flashbacks, or extended scenes with the other characters, it feels redundant and is obviously only there for a cheap laugh (which it gets). Since this is a film with team spirit as a dominant theme, building up the minor characters and giving us a taste of their histories would not have gone amiss.

It would be hard not to fall for Dodgeball's charms, but it is a flawed comedy, half-hearted in terms of character and willing to sacrifice substance for gags. Yet, it is easy to watch and enjoyable throughout and if you wait until the end credits, you will see Ben Stiller deliver an indictment of the conventions of American cinema.

It's a hit and miss film, which will appeal to those who liked Along Came Polly. If this isn't you, then Dodgeball might well be worth dodging.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2004
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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story packshot
Misfits enter LA dodgeball tournament in a bid to save gym from closure.
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Read more Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story reviews:

David Haviland ****
Stephen Carty **1/2

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn, Alan Tudyk, Gary Cole, Jason Bateman

Year: 2004

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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