Preview by: Jack Foley
BEN Stiller has been enjoying something of a prolific year thus
far. Having enjoyed chart-topping success with Along
Came Polly and Starsky and
Hutch (not to mention Envy and the upcoming Meet
The Fockers), he now sits on top of the pile with sports comedy,
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
The film co-stars Vince Vaughn (Old
School/Swingers) and picks up as corporate workout centre,
Globo Gym, moves into a small town, prompting the locally owned
fitness centre, Average Joe's, to lose so much business that its
manager, Peter (Vaughn), can't make the mortgage payment.
Faced with going under, the team from Joe's decides to enter
a high-stakes dodgeball competition, in which they face Globo
Gym's Purple Cobras, led by White Goodman (Stiller).
The ensuing comedy is said to contain lots of puerile gags and
plenty of footage of people getting hit in the face and the groin
with dodgeballs which, according to director, Rawson Marshall
Thurber, is ‘always funny, no matter how many times you
US critics seemed to have been mostly of the same opinion, crediting
Stiller and the ever-popular Vaughn with delivering another comedy
gem, and helping it to the top of the US Box Office, when it opened
over the June 18 weekend (2004), despite strong competition from
Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks romantic comedy, The
Indeed, such was Dodgeball’s winning appeal, that it easily
outplayed the Spielberg movie, taking $30 million worth of tickets
in its opening weekend, as opposed to The
Its performance even surprised Bruce Snyder, of distributor 20th
Century Fox, who would have been content with merely matching
the film’s production costs.
He declared it was ‘huge beyond expectations’ and
said it showed that people ‘were ready to laugh again’.
It also had the honour of knocking Harry Potter’s latest
movie from the top spot.
So what did the US critics
The New York Times led the positive reviews,
stating that ‘Ben Stiller plays a pumped-up fitness guru
in a consistently funny sports spoof that unapologetically roots
for the über-nerds’.
While the Chicago Sun-Times observed that ‘Globo
is owned by Ben Stiller, overacting to the point of apoplexy as
White Goodman; his manic performance is consistently funny’.
The Denver Rocky Mountain News, meanwhile, declared
that it ‘aims low - and happily hits its target’.
Variety decided that it ‘gleefully commingles
slapstick and scatology, satire and sentiment, in a free-wheeling
farce aimed at making auds laugh until they're thoroughly ashamed
While the New York Daily News felt that ‘Stiller
creates a perfect storm of body, facial and vocal _expression
for every line of dialogue, and you have to admire his co-players
for merely maintaining their balance against the bluster’.
And the Washington Post opined that ‘Thurber
makes you forget convention and enjoy a genuine yukfest, full
of down-and-dirty (but funny) gags and one-liners, and memorable
Not everyone was convinced, however. The New York Post
felt that it ‘reeks of desperation from the start,
resorting way too often to the Funniest Home Videos-style spectacle
of people getting hit in the crotch with red rubber balls’.
While the San Francisco Chronicle lamented:
"Yes, the movie's watchable, and there are about six good
laughs in it, but six good (not great) laughs in 90 minutes is
pretty paltry for a comedy."
The Toronto Star, meanwhile, felt that it ‘eventually
falls prey to its own stupidity (including far too many homophobic
jokes), and to a surprisingly lacklustre performance by Vince
And USA Today wrote: "From the same generic
mind-set that could just as easily have given us Major League:
Concession Stand comes what seems like the 11th Ben Stiller comedy
But the final word goes to the San Jose Mercury News,
which concluded: "Some movies are funny because they’re
smart, while other movies are equally funny because they’re
dumb. More rarely, movies are funny because they involve watching
enormous wrenches being hurled at people’s groins."
But then what else could you expect from a film, which bears
the poster tagline: "Grab life by the ball"?