Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

23 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

No, I don’t believe that “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” was based on a true underdog story. More accurately, it could be labeled as an underdog story that is much funnier that how we usually see underdogs in movies. The underdog team that we follow in “Dodgeball” is a band of underdogs who get better at playing the movie’s sport and play in the Big Game. Among the guys on the team are a guy who thinks he’s a pirate and another guy who didn’t know that there even was such a guy on the team.

What is the sport these underdogs play in the movie? Well, it is dodgeball. It’s that game we’ve all played in school in gym class where you try to hit the opposing team with rubber balls. The best way to win is to get all the bigger guys on your team, and if you have enough guts to catch a ball before it hits the ground, then the player who threw that ball is out and a person from your team comes back into the game.

OK, enough of the refresher course. Back to the first movie about dodgeball called “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”…

The reliably-funny and fast-talking Vince Vaughn plays Peter La Fleur, an Average Joe who manages a rundown gym called “Average Joe’s.” Among those who hang around there are the pirate character I mentioned earlier, the person who didn’t know there was a pirate guy around, a geeky teenager, and an overweight loser who reads a magazine called “Obscure Sports Quarterly.” Peter’s rival is the ridiculously pompous White Goodman (Ben Stiller), who runs “Globo Gym,” an over-the-top fitness program with the slogan, “We’re better than you and we know it!”

Ben Stiller’s performance has to be seen to be believed. Imagine Fonzie of TV’s “Happy Days” and make him more energetic and in spandex. Though the performance almost runs out of steam towards the end, it’s still very funny.

Anyway, White wants to close down the “Average Joe’s” gym to create a new building for his corporation of fit sadists. So, Peter and his group challenge White and his band of monsters to a Las Vegas Dodgeball Tournament, televised by ESPN 8 (“The Ocho”).

What follows is a great line of gags and jokes that I will not reveal, but I have give notice to Rip Torn, who portrays the coach for the team of misfits. He’s an old coot in a wheelchair, but also a veteran of dodgeball. His methods are very unusual but downright hilarious. They involve a sack of wrenches. Two other characters draw our attention: Christine Taylor (Ben Stiller’s wife) is an attractive bank employee who joins the good guys in the tournament and may (or may not) have a thing for Peter. And Gary Cole is very funny as the commentator on the tournament. It’s the funniest sports commentary since Fred Willard’s commentary in “Best in Show.”

Every character in this movie is either funny or fun to watch. And this movie really is funny. The strangest thing about Vince Vaughn’s performance is that he doesn’t do a lot to be funny. He plays a straight man that happens to deliver some one-liners when he has to. Some of the gags are great, including one in a scene where White pumps himself up before meeting a woman (not giving away the gag). There are cameos that come in and out and those bits are funny too. And another great thing about this movie is that during the Big Game (of course, it’s obvious that the “Average Joe’s” team is going to play in the Big Game), I wasn’t bored. I was with these guys, getting hit with dodgeballs with these guys, and I was glad to go along for the ride with these guys. And I laughed along the way.

“Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” is a very funny movie; full of fun characters to watch, very funny moments here and there, and a satire on overdone sports movies. And I guess I can say nobody throws a wrench like Rip Torn.

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