Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story Review

Jun 21, 2004 | 12:40pm EDT

Dodgeball is the classic big guy vs. little guy can-do tale featuring your least favorite P.E. activity. Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) is the irresponsible manager of Average Joe Gymnasium a low-end workout center that is losing business to Globo Gym America Corp. run by former fatty food fetishist White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Peter discovers that he has 30 days to come up with $50 000 of payments or else he will lose his gym to Goodman. With the help of the bank's lawyer Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) and a ragtag team of gym regulars Peter plans on winning the Las Vegas International Dodgeball Open and its first place prize money. Yes folks all of your favorite sports clichés are here: the salty experienced coach (Rip Torn) with his inspirational non-sequiturs the nerd with a girl to impress a love triangle between the two rivals and of course pirates. What? You were expecting a high concept and clever plot twists perhaps? C'mon. If you want character development go see the folks at Merchant-Ivory. This is irreverent comedy folks. And truth be told it's nothing we haven't seen before. Vince Vaughn hones his too-cool-for-school good-guy persona against Ben Stiller's lycra-covered over-the-top overachiever with a '70s porn moustache. Stiller's performance is colored with shades of the dim-witted Zoolander and the granny-thrashing nurse from Happy Gilmore but it works. The two actors play off of each other and their co-stars quite well. (Stiller's codpiece alone deserves its own screen credit.) But like a good drummer carries a band the movie's costars are what keeps the audience's attention. And as always Rip Torn does crazy like no one else as dodgeball manager Patches O'Houlihan. He chews the scenery spouting nuggets of wisdom such as "If you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball" before heaving a tool at one poor kid. As for the team of Average Joes Stephen Root Justin Long and Joel Moore keep the gags rolling as do the actors who make cameo appearances. This laugher has more guest stars than a two-hour Love Boat special. With a list that includes David Hasselhoff Chuck Norris Jason Bateman Hank Azaria I was almost expecting Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise to show up in a red Ferrari. The highlights? Well Gary Cole shines in his bow to the great Vin Scully but nothing could beat Lance Armstrong who laid down the best guilt trip I've seen since I moved to the dorms. This is Rawson Marshall Thurber's first time out playing with the big boys. Quite a burden for a Tinseltown newbie but Thurber pulls it off agreeably. All of your favorite sports movies will be mocked and you will enjoy it. Thurber uses everything he can to get a laugh. Whether he's clowning Tony Robbins parodying '50s instructional videos or using pizza in a perverse and unholy manner Thurber keeps his audiences attention with enough breakneck shtick to make Mel Brooks proud. But most importantly he never forgets the fundamental rule to slapstick comedy: hitting people with stuff is very very funny especially if it's in the nether regions or some area of the human body that could potentially hurt or bleed a whole lot.

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