Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (5/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

This really looked like it was going to be dumb before I saw it. Turns out it’s not as dumb as it appears. Compounding this preconception, I thought both stars, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, truly horrible in Starsky and Hutch, which was a truly horrible movie. So I’m not expecting much when I’m walking into the screening.

On the plus side, I discovered before it started that the running time was a workable hour and a half, so I wasn’t going to be there long. Then the movie started and I’m thinking, “This isn’t so bad.”

Peter La Fleur (Vaughn) is a likeable loser, shoddily running his gym into the ground. White Goodman (Stiller) is a Type A overachiever who runs a competing gym with super efficiency. For some reason unknown to us, he wants Peter’s gym. Switching their roles in Starsky, Vaughn’s the good guy and Stiller’s the bad guy.

Peter is about to be foreclosed out of his gym because he owes $50,000 he doesn’t have. To that end, the bank’s lawyer, Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor, Stiller’s real life wife) visits him to do an audit. Peter decides he’ll enter a Dodgeball tournament to win the $50,000. Naturally, he’s up against White’s team.

White hits on Kate. She says it would be a conflict of interest for her to date him, so he has her fired. Infuriated, she joins Peter’s team.

One thing this movie does extremely well is to explain the game they’re playing. By the time of the ultimate competition, you understand what they’re doing and why. I wish that surfing movies would explain that arcane competition sometime. Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn) gives a quick tutorial explaining the rules and how to play the game. By the time of the competition, you understand the game.

There are many cameos (William Shatner, Chuck Norris, David Hasselhoff, and Lance Armstrong, who has a very funny segment).

This takes shots at decorum, some of which are funny. There was one that was deplorable and unacceptable. To put somebody down, Peter yells, “You’re adopted…your parents don’t even love you.” Writer-Director Rawson Marshall Thurber should be ashamed of himself for such a shameful line. In addition there are some crude sexual jokes that would eliminate this as acceptable viewing for children and call into question the intellectual level of the people who created them.

It does contain a nice satirical comment on inane sportscasters and color commentators that strikes home. This is an over the top, silly, clearly played for laughs, trifle. Despite the adoption line and the low class sexual jokes, to my surprise this was a moderately entertaining hour and a half.

June 17, 2004

The End