Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story [piratey retro review]

“It’s time to separate the weak from the chafed, the men from the boys, the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian.”

The Scoop: 2004 PG-13, directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber and starring Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor and Ben Stiller

Tagline: Grab life by the ball.

Summary Capsule: An (sigh) UNDERDOG team fights to keep their crappy gym from the clutches of an evil jock. And then they play dodgeball.


Justin’s Rating: Again, WHY do they make kids in school take gym? What “education” is there in humiliation and pain?

Justin’s Review: Bill Murray. Jack Black. Jim Carrey. John Cusack. Norm McDonald.

Oh! Hello! I didn’t see you come in there. I was just playing a little game I like to call, What Other Actor Would Have Been Infinitely Better Than Vince Vaughn In The Lead Role Of Dodgeball. Hmm… Kevin Smith, Seann William Scott, Matthew Broderick, Adam Sandler, Jackie Chan, heck, the lead cockroach from Joe’s Apartment

It’s a fun game, useful in that it kept me from going mad by the third act of this movie. As an guy who comes from the Classical Valium School of Acting, Vaughn not only phoned in his part here, he phoned it in completely stoned off his keister. He goes through all 92 minutes with the same droopy-eyed patronizing attitude, as if mentally head-patting the other actors and saying, “It’s just ADORABLE how you guys think this is a real movie, but you see, you’re all two-bit extras and I’m a real star who should be snorting some illegal narcotic right now in my three-story movie trailer.”

Apologists of Vaughn’s acting style in Dodgeball might contend that he’s doing the stoned bit because his character is supposed to be apathetic. Yeah, well, I know apathy, and apathy can be much funnier than that. He’s meant to be the lead hero that we’re all pulling for because he stands against the evil Ben Stiller, but he severely fails to earn our worship as a character who simply does squat with the role. For all of the hilarious nonsense that White Goodman (Stiller) throws his way, Vaughn’s main response is just to stare back in mild puzzlement. Any other comedic actor worth his or her chops would’ve had a witty retort waiting in the wings, but not I’m-Too-Good-To-Emote Vaughn. Way to go, doofus.

If you think I’m being hard on him, you just haven’t seen this film. Dodgeball, a pretty okay comedy about an underdog team of misfits playing national dodgeball championships in order to save their gym, really could have been pure gold with a much more interested and interesting actor in the lead saddle. As it is, many of the excellent secondary roles — including Steve the freaking Pirate — are lessened by being attached to Vaughn’s La Fleur. And it’s HARD to mess up a movie where a guy who pretends to be a pirate plays dodgeball, darnit!

It’s a shame, because not since BASEketball have we seen a sports comedy bum rush the audience with a Gatorade bucket full of electrolyte craziness. When you have a guy who, for no good reason, thinks and acts like he’s a pirate, and toss him in with Milton from Office Space, Justin Long from TV’s “Ed”, and a urine-drinking Rip Torn, well, the Academy Award nomination committee is going to have their hands very full come award season.

This further goes to prove that any guy movie can be vastly improved by adding one or more of the following things: monkeys, pirates and ninjas. A ninja pirate monkey would be the ultimate.

Ben Stiller’s character is a perfect comedy villain, overly evil and strange, to the point where he’s shoving pizza down his spandex pants (don’t ask). He does evil very well, almost more than his straight “nice guy” roles, if you might recall from Happy Gilmore. Another great element is, well, the dodgeball itself. Watching characters getting smacked around by those flying red balls with the distinctive “doiing” sound just never ceases to amuse.

Flawed summer comedies are mistakenly embraced by exuberant crowds mainly because (1) there’s often very few comedies released in the summertime and audiences are starved for one, and (2) the mainstream moviegoingers are brain-vapid goobers. Dodgeball is okay, worth a rent, and then immediately toss it across the room to hit a friend or family member for the winning point.


PoolMan’s Rating: Shake the dust off your soul and embrace the joy that is a pirate playing dodgeball.

PoolMan’s Review: Although it’s a comparison I’m sure I’ll come to regret later (or, in all likelihood, sooner), Justin and I have settled into a relationship closely resembling that of an old married couple. We’ve known each other for years, developed a keen sense of what makes the other tick, have a deep mutual respect, and I give him a dirty look whenever he leaves his false teeth on top of the TV. Suffice it to say, although we have our disagreements here and there, I’m getting pretty good at reading whether he’d enjoy a movie or not.

And yet… I took in Dodgeball for the first time this week (thanks, Best Man Dan!), and then signed on to the Good Ol’ MRFH to see what my compatriot had written up there in the space above this here review. What should my wondering eyes come across but a black, tarlike review, full of hate and anger for a movie that made me laugh from start to finish. Why, if the Emperor had read this review, Justin would be a Sith even now! Colour me shocked (which is kind of an orangey colour, if you were wondering, but don’t feel you have to stay inside the lines). This movie is so much fun, it’s awesome. Look at me, I’m borrowing from Kyle’s lexicon here, IT’S AWESOME!

Now, this isn’t Shakespeare. This is the kind of movie where you need to check your brain at the door (be sure to keep your ticket). After all, it’s the feature length story of a man trying to save his gym by convincing his only friends (among whom we have three feeble nerds and a PIRATE) to play dodgeball on the professional circuit. I mean, right there, you can pretty much count on your cerebrum packing it in if it’s paying attention. It’s the absolutely clichéd, by-the-book sports movie setup. But it’s over and done with in record time, leaving us to roar straight past “whoa, life sucks being indebted to the Man” and on into “yeehaw, it’s time to throw a big rubber ball right at that guy’s testicles”. It wastes no time, and it makes no apologies. It’s a loser team playing a series of weirdos at a game they’re not good at for the Noble Cause. It couldn’t be any goofier, and it totally works.

Now, sure, leading man Vince Vaughn does not at any time even come close to his manic performances in Swingers or Wedding Crashers. But he doesn’t need to. I thought the character of Peter should have been subtle to make the other Average Joes pop out just a bit more. So if you’re looking for a Vince Vaughn Ranting Showpiece, this ain’t your flick. And I’m not trying to be an apologist, I honestly just didn’t think there was anything wrong with what Vaughn did during the movie. Simple as that.

Beyond that, I don’t have a lot to say. The story is bone simple and predictable, the cast is great fun as a whole (Jason Bateman’s colour commentary had me absolutely rolling), and the jokes come fast and furious. Don’t listen to mean old Farmer Cranky up there (he could’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for you kids and your dog!), give Dodgeball a chance!

Noooooooo!!!! I swear I'm not directly copying my character from Heavyweights!

INTERMISSION!

  • The climatic final battle is between Average Joe’s and the Globo Gym Purple Cobras, or in other words “Joes vs. Cobras.” It’s G.I. Joe!
  • The words “Deus Ex Machina” are written on the side of the treasure chest at the end of the movie.
  • Jason Bateman is an awesome color commentator
  • Office Space reunion, with both Gordon (Milton) and Cotton McKnight (Lumberg)
  • I hear they’re adding wrench tossing to the Summer Olympics
  • Studded leather: the new thing in athletic wear
  • Chuck Norris! CHUCK NORRIS!!!
  • So… given the twist at the end, what WAS Peter doing at the airport?
  • I love how the German team worships (and is coached by) David Hasselhoff
  • Norm McDonald appears a couple of times in the background at Average Joe’s
  • When Kate smashes White’s face into the wall, you can see a streak of Ben Stiller’s makeup left behind
  • I’ve never been to a car wash like that!
  • At the beginning of the credits, there’s a commercial for Average Joe’s, followed by a quick glimpse of White Goodman’s fate.
  • At the end of the credits, there’s a bizarre rant from White Goodman to the audience with his comments on the film’s ending and a related odd musical interlude.
  • Ben Stiller broke three cameras in succession filming one scene, and even hit his wife Christine Taylor in the face once.

Groovy Quotes

Patches O’Houlihan: If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball.

Amber: Justin! I love you!
Justin: I lov…
White Goodman: [hits Justin in the face with a dodgeball] Joanie loves Chaci!

White Goodman: Nobody makes me bleed my own blood. NOBODY.

Lance Armstrong: Hey, aren’t you Peter La Fleur?
Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong!
Lance Armstrong: Ya, that’s me. But I’m a big fan of yours.
Peter La Fleur: Really?
Lance Armstrong: Ya, I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. Good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late.
Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit… Lance.
Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that’s keeping you from the finals?
Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like… shame.
Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t anything to regret for the rest of their life. Well good luck to you Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.

Patches O’Houlihan: Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion, and degradation.

Peter La Fleur: Yeah, uh, Patches… are you sure this is completely necessary?
Patches O’Houlihan: Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine?
Peter La Fleur: Probably not.
Patches O’Houlihan: No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste.
Peter La Fleur: …Okay.

White Goodman: This doesn’t concern you, La Fleur.
Peter La Fleur: Not nearly as much as your hair does.

Peter La Fleur: Hey, White. I didn’t think that Nazi camp got out until eight. Did you decide to skip arts and crafts?
White Goodman: Yes, I did.

Cotton McKnight: In 23 years of broadcasting I thought I’d seen it all, folks. But it looks like Peter La Fleur has actually blindfolded himself.
Pepper Brooks: He will not be able to see very well, Cotton.

White Goodman: Here at Globo Gym we’re better than you, and we know it.

White Goodman: We should date some time. Socially. Go out and kick it. Are you okay?
Kate Veatch: I’m fine. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
White Goodman: In some cultures, they only eat vomit. I never been there, but I read about it in a book.

Peter La Fleur: You had me at blood and semen.

Dwight: We could sell blood and semen.
[everyone gives him a strange look]
Dwight: What? Not mixed together.

Kate Veatch: That… is a really interesting painting.
White Goodman: Thank you. Yeah, that’s me, taking the bull by the horns. It’s how I handle business. It’s a metaphor.
Kate Veatch: I get it.
White Goodman: But that actually happened, though.

Cotton McKnight: It’s time to separate the weak from the chafed, the men from the boys, the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian.

Peter La Fleur: Hang on a second. You wanna become a cheerleader to prove you are not a loser?
Justin: Yeah. Why?
Peter La Fleur: Nothing. High school’s changed a bit since I was a kid.

Justin: Steve! Where is it you go to do… whatever it is that you do?
Steve the Pirate: Garrr! Joe’s be the only place for me!

Kate Veatch: Are you reading the dictionary?
White Goodman: Oh, you caught me. I like to break a mental sweat too.

Cotton McKnight: Las Vegas. A city built of hot sand, broken dreams and $5 lobster. A city where you can get a happy ending, if you pay a little extra. A city home to a sporting event greater than the World Cup, World Series and World War II combined.

White Goodman: At Globo Gym we understand that “ugliness” and “fatness” are genetic disorders, much like baldness or necrophilia, and it’s only your fault if you don’t hate yourself enough to do something about it.

Peter: Come on Kate, it’s time to put your mouth where our balls are.

Cotton McKnight: Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to witness the greatest happening in sport: sudden-death dodgeball.
Pepper Brooks: Pepper needs new shorts!

Steve the Pirate: The dread pirate Steve be in no man’s debt. I’ll make a barter with ya; true as the north star. In exchange for your kindness, I’ll be sharing me buried treasure with ya… once I find it, that be.

Cotton McKnight: I’m being told that Average Joe’s does not have enough players and will be forfeiting the championship match.
Pepper Brooks: It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.

Cotton McKnight: Looks like it’s gonna be a two-on-one, a ménage à trois of pain.
Pepper Brooks: Usually you pay double for that kind of action, Cotton.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These

  • BASEketball
  • Happy Gilmore
  • Office Space
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6 Comments

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