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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. 10 deleted/extended scenes. Alternate ending (with optional commentary by writer/director Thurber). Blooper/gag reel. More with DodgeBall Dancers. DodgeBall: Behind the Scenes Inside Look. Easter Eggs: 5 video segments and 2 hidden feature audio commentaries by Thurber and Stiller, Vaughn and Thurber. 4 featurettes.

IN TERMS of knowing stupidity, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story has to rate among the most dumbest feel-good movies of recent years. It aims low but mostly hits the target.

Vince Vaughn stars as charismatic under-achiever, Peter LaFleur, whose rundown gym, Average Joe’s, is on the verge of being taken over by Ben Stiller’s Globo Gym rival, White Goodman, an egomaniacal fitness freak, who places physical prowess above all else (despite having to own an inflatable cod-piece to attract the ladies).

In order to try and win the money needed to rescue Average Joe’s, LaFleur and his equally useless gym members enter a Dodgeball tournament, but find themselves squaring off against the Globo Gym competitors for a winner-takes-all showdown.

It’s all very predictable, and completely childish, residing in the sort of body-fluid territory that the Farrelly brothers have made their own, but Dodgeball somehow manages to rise above its limitations to offer plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

Part of its allure lies in its ability to realise its own stupidity, in that it knows where most of its laughs are coming from and doesn’t really attempt to offer anything different.

So if the idea of watching people throw balls at each other, as hard as they can, grabs you, then this is the film for you.

Director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, consistently finds new and increasingly absurd ways of putting his performers in harm’s way and the training sequences, in particular, are sure to provide plenty of guffaws as Average Joe’s no-hopers fall under the tutelage of Rip Torn’s former Dodgeball champion, who is now confined to a wheelchair.

If they can dodge a spanner, or traffic, for instance, they can easily dodge a ball, and Torn wastes no time in tossing everything he can at them.

Likewise, Stiller’s inflated ego lands him in all manner of cringe-inducing scenarios, whether it’s trying to woo his legal advisor (Christine Taylor) by reading the dictionary (‘I like to stay in mental shape, too’), or attempting to outwit LaFleur by repeating everything he says.

Part of the key to the movie’s success lies in its casting, which, for the most part, is spot-on. Both Vaughn and Stiller are obviously having fun, and the former, in particular, brings his usual smooth-talking cool to proceedings, effortlessly delivering a life-long loser audiences can root for.

Stiller, meanwhile, continues to build on a rapidly expanding comedy CV, just about staying the right side of annoying, as the power-mullet-sporting Goodman, a genuinely creepy fitness freak just waiting to receive his comeuppance.

The inspired use of cameos also serves to enliven the movie just when things threaten to sag, with everyone from David Hasselhoff and William Shatner, to Chuck Norris and Hank Azaria contributing in some way.

It may, ultimately, be a no-brainer, designed purely to deliver its playground laughs with wanton disregard for good taste, but its energy is infectious and audiences will probably find themselves chuckling along in spite of any misgivings.

But what else could you expect from a film that boasts the poster tagline, ‘grab life by the balls’?

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