What is there to say about Dodgeball – A True Underdog Story other than it’s a no-brainer of a hilarious movie that doesn’t aspire to lofty heights. What it does do is come out firing with some of the funniest physical comedy and one-liners since The Farrelly Brothers’ Something About Mary. First time director Rawson Marshall Thurber does a good enough job to keep the laughs coming one right after the another to keep Dodgeball from becoming too repetitive.
The movie is a riff from the stock underdog sports genre with a Peter La Fleur (played by Vince Vaughn with his usual sardonic wit) having to find a way to save his Average Joe’s Gym from being foreclosed by his bank and turned by a rival hi-tech gym next door into a parking lot. Who else would be the perfect foil for Vince Vaughn’s Peter La Fleur but none other than Ben Stiller as the former-fatty turned workout fitness Nazi, White Goodman. Goodman’s Globo Gym is a state-of-the art, sterile and BALCO-like gym where insults and making its members feel ugly, fat and useless is the way to clean health and the perfect bod.
Already, within the first fifteen minutes, we know who to root for and who to boo. In one corner we have the Average Joe’s guys played with comedic timing by Justin Long, Stephen Root, Chris Williams, Alan Tudyk and Joel Moore. Stiller’s Goodman and his consigliere Me’Shell (Jamal Duff channeling Barry White) with a hand-picked ringer of a dodgeball team he calls the Purple Cobras. With the two sides set the dodgeball carnage begins as Average Joe’s must win the Las Vegas Dodgeball Invitational to earn the $50,000 needed to save the gym. To round out the Average Joe’s team will be the bank accountant who ends up sympathizing with the Joe’s, Kate Veatch (played by Stiller’s real-life wife, Christine Taylor) and Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn in a scene-stealing role).
Rip Torn is hilarious as the acerbic and insane former dodgeball great Patches O’Houlihan. He pretty much gets all the best one-liners in the movie the moment he appears on the screen. He coaches the Average Joe’s team by browbeating them, insulting them and, failing that, throwing wrenches at them to help them in learning the 5 D’s of dodgeball: Dodge, duck, dip, dive, dodge. In fact, I would say that if it wasn’t for Rip Torn’s character dominating the middle part of the movie, I think Dodgeball‘s constant ball to the groin shots would’ve gotten old. Instead Patches O’Houlihan constantly gave people watching a reason to laugh out loud.
Dodgeball – A True Underdog Story is a movie that the Academy voters will not go about showering with praises and awards, but I’m sure most of them will be watching it and laughing out loud like the rest of the general public. Dodgeball is one hilarious, one-liner after one-liner ball to the nuts funny and it doesn’t aspire to be anything else but that. This movie will never get old with each viewing and will continue to make people laugh out loud.