Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Release Date: June 18th, 2004 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber Actors: Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Stephen Root, Alan Tudyk, Missi Pyle
lobo Gym America Corporation founder White Goodman (Ben Stiller) bellows his commercials on television, doing his obnoxious best to appear as an insane Chuck Norris (“At Globo Gym, we’re better than you – and we know it!”). His company is a $4 million neon temple of hi-tech workout equipment, on-site plastic surgery, massive monitors, and perfectly sculpted bodies. At the nearby Average Joe’s Gym, owned by Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), the crumbling, poorly equipped, nearly empty building has just lost its lease to Goodman. If Peter can’t get $50,000 in less than a month, he’ll be shut down.
When Average Joe’s patron Gordon (Stephen Root), an avid reader of “Obscure Sports Quarterly,” happens upon the Las Vegas international Dodge Ball Open, with a purse of exactly $50,000, he suggests a seemingly simply way to rescue the business. A regional qualifying match win is all that’s necessary to participate in the American Dodgeball Association of America’s tournament. Sexual harassment lawyer Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor), dabbling in real estate and tax law, has been assigned by the bank to oversee the acquisition of Average Joe’s. She’s fond of Peter, even though he’s all but given up on saving his establishment, and even offers to cheer on their efforts. In short time, a handful of misfit athletes form a ragtag squad of dodgeball players to rival Goodman and his illegally entered team, the “Purple Cobras.”
Many of the most amusing bits involve non-dodgeball related subplots – such as Goodman’s courtship of Kate and scrawny Justin’s (Justin Long) longtime cheerleader crush (Julie Gonzalo). Spoofing archival footage, overusing acronyms, sporting outrageous costumes, cheesy catchphrases, and hilarious opposing team names (the best of which is “Skillz That Killz,” whose groovy urban members fall to the ground as if break-dancing), utilizing fake advertisements, and demonstrating ill-fated fundraising options are a few of the other elements that nearly eclipse the success of the slow-motion dodgeball mayhem (and the memorable training montage – with rubber balls replaced by wrenches and speeding cars). Even the brief history of the game, informing audiences of the originations by opium-addicted Chinese men tossing around severed heads, gets more of a laugh.
Vaughn plays his typical, uninspired, unenthusiastic underdog; Long is the nervous, stuttering, agitated youngster he’s also accustomed to portraying; Jason Bateman has a small part as an exceptionally unintelligent announcer; and William Shatner has a cameo as the dodgeball chancellor (Lance Armstrong and Chuck Norris also make brief appearances). But it’s Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn), the crotchety, wheelchair-bound ex-champion and insult-spewing current coach that steals the show, channeling a humor-infused Lee Ermey from “Full Metal Jacket.” Though the gags are only occasionally funny, the climax is surprisingly satisfying, despite fulfilling the most generic dark horse movie scenario.
– Mike Massie