Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Time Out saysPunters at multiplexes across Britain may ask, ‘Is dodgeball a proper sport?’ and the answer is: ‘sort of’. It’s certainly a popular default option for American PE teachers charged with keeping 50 little kids out of breath when inclement weather keeps gym class indoors: set them loose to fling rubber balls at each other until the last munchkin stands. At my Buffalo primary school, a player was only tagged out if a ball hit him or her below the neck, but in Thurber’s broad slapstick comedy, roughly 35 per cent of the intended laughs derive from sudden impacts to the cranial regions.
The ‘true underdogs’ in question are regulars at Average Joe’s Gym, a no-frills sweat shack nominally run by affable layabout Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn). He needs $50,000 fast to stave off rapacious Globo Gym proprietor White Goodman (Ben Stiller) – who plans to bulldoze Average Joe’s for a new car park – so Peter and pals, naturally, enter a dodgeball tournament to raise the cash. The set-up is priceless, especially with Stiller prancing around in pompadour, Fu Manchu moustache, and inflatable codpiece, but much of this limply scripted film falls curiously flat – not least because of a fundamental lack of the goodwill evident in stellar precursors as disparate as ‘Caddyshack’ and Stiller’s own ‘Zoolander’. (Why the fatty and lesbian jokes?) Meanwhile, the sudden popularity of dodgeball leagues in the States may portend that D-ball will finally surpass reading ‘Harry Potter’ on the tube as the demographically inclusive pastime of choice; to its credit, the movie addresses the age-appropriate issue when LaFleur’s motley crew is soundly spanked on the court by a fearsome squad of Girl Scouts.
Cast and crew
Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Rip Torn, Joel Moore, Chris Williams, Justin Long, Stephen Root, Alan Tudyk, Missi Pyle, Jamal E Duff
Rawson Marshall Thurber