Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
We have all played dodgeball or some variant during school, whether it was with a football, basketball or even a tennis ball, many a painful break-time or lunch time was spent avoiding getting hit with circular missiles. This sport is the subject of Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn’s latest film
Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) is a regular guy – he likes to drink, be a slob and generally just gets by on his charm and wit. He also is the owner of Average Joe’s Gym; a rundown establishment with a somewhat questionable clientele. They include middle-aged, mail ordering bride, geek Gordon (Stephen Root), campy black man Dwight (Chris Williams), high school cheerleader wannabe Justin (Justin Long), nerdy Owen (Joel Moore) and Steve the Pirate (Alan Tudyk). These guys hang out at Average Joes not to get fit but more to belong to something – a place where they are accepted for who they are.
A place where they are definitely not welcome is the rival gym across the street; Globo-Gym. Globo-Gym is one of the new fangled gyms that takes working out far too seriously and also offers plastic surgery and humiliation as part of their membership. The founder and owner of Globo-Gym is the ultra vain and self-absorbed White Goodman (Ben Stiller). To say that these two gyms are rivals is a bit of a lie as Average Joes cannot remotely complete with the high-tech machinery and glossy finish of Globo-Gym.
Even though Average Joes is no threat to Globo-Gym, Goodman decides that he wants to expand his car park and is determined to bankrupt La Fleur to achieve it. Peter, although well loved by his non-paying clients, is not so loved by his bank and as a result Goodman buys the second mortgage on Average Joes and gets the bank to send in a foreclosing lawyer Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor – who is the real-life wife of Ben Stiller ironically). She delivers the two options to Peter, either find $50 000 by the end of the month or sell out to Goodman.
Luckily for Peter, Gordon discovers that there is a Las Vegas Dodgeball tournament which has a top cash prize of $50,000, so with his misfit of the unfit they head off to try and win with the help of now wheelchair bound Dodgeball legend Patches O’Houlihan (a maniacal Rip Torn). Unfortunately White Goodman discovers their plan and forms a team of his own consisting of the super fit and ringers from abroad.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story has some very funny moments and some which miss the mark much like weakly thrown dodgeball. The plot is really of no consequence as it’s the standard sporting underdog tale of fighting against insurmountable odds.
Stiller seems to be really enjoying himself with his frosted hair, handlebar moustache, tight clothing and over the top sexism and general obnoxiousness. His bizarre antics start strange and by the end they are so outrageous it’s hard not to chuckle, such as stuffing pizza down his groin (trust me it’s funnier than it sounds).Vince Vaughn is his usual roughish self who seems to be travelling a little on autopilot. Still he does it with enough charm to keep it entertaining. The rest of the cast are funny in their own way with Rip Torn being the standout as the bad-mannered trainer for the Average Joes team. Strange how funny throwing wrenches at people really is, or getting pelted in the groin by a man in a wheelchair.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story works in many areas with its subversive charm and likeable (or dislikeable) characters. There are a few weak areas but when the film starts flagging it manages to pull another funny gag out of the bag which is good for a film that doesn’t pretend to be anything else than what it is – fun and energetic and totally irrelevant beyond 90 minutes.
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