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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn
Director: Rawson Marsahll Thurber
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genre: Comedy


*Also starring: Christine Taylor, Justin Long, Jason Bateman, Michelle Boehle, Cayden Boyd, Brooke Burke, Tate Chalk, Gary Cole, Jamal Duff, Julie Gonzalo



Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

With the possible exception of track events, the game of dodgeball is about as rudimentary as you can get in the sports world something that could have easily been invted back in the Dark Ages. You throw a ball at your opponent. If you hit him, he's out. If he catches your throw, though, you're out. Under some circumstances, your benched teammate can come back into the game, just like a hockey player who is given a penalty for a set amount of time. Rawson Marshall Thurber's "Dodgerball: A True Underdog Story" is perhaps the first commercial movie ever made about the sport, which in itself compels our movie-going attention, and while Ben Stiller is too over-the-top by half, the pic is worth seeing just for the straight- man performance of Vince Vaughn, who is a funny man indeed even without trying.

The story is that Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), has thirty days to come up with the $50,000 he owes a bank, at least according to the woman you wish you dealt with every day in your bank, Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor). His "Average Joe's Gym" is down-at-the heels, La Fleur doesn't even bother to collect the monthly membership dues, and his clientele is down to five people, each weird in his own way. There's even one guy who thinks he's a pirate, Steve (Alan Tudyk). If La Fleur cannot come up with the bucks, his gym will be taken over, destroyed and made into a parking lot by the head of a million- dollar weight-building cum cosmetic surgery chain across the street, Globo Gym, run by the arrogant White Goodman (Ben Stiller), who gets his first comeuppance when putting the touch on the lovely Kate, who slams his head into a wall. There's a lot less slamming, thankfully, than you find in the dumbed-down "Around the World in 80 Days," and most of the action takes place outside the sporting arena, allowing Stiller to play comic clown against the more serious but laid-back Vaughn.

"Dodgeball" follows the traditional sports formula: the good guys, the underdogs, come out ahead, the bad guys get shafted. Though we're aware of what we're in for every step of the way, the fun in this movie is watching the characters, all pretty strange except for banker Kate, do their special things. Rip Torn, for example, tears up the scenery as Patches O'Houlihan, wheelchair bound coach for the underdogs, several decades after he made a 1938 film as super coach for the game, the guy who encourages kids to take up the sport even at a time that no self-respecting young 'un would think of taking drugs or alcohol. Despite writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber's insistence on making Ben Stiller more obnoxious than anyone can believe, the movie is laden with solid one-liners and succeeds in getting our sympathy for the geeky fellows who somehow find a home at a broken-down gym rather than in a sleek, Vic-Tanney-like corporate building.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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