out of Five
Running time: 96
Frequently amusing comedy with some great sight gags and strong comic performances from Ben Stiller and Rip Torn, despite an occasionally lazy script.
The trailer and the poster for DodgeBall tell you everything you need to know about the movie, to wit: a) there will be lots of jokes about balls and b) if you don’t find people being hit in the face with a ball (or a wrench) funny, then don’t bother seeing the film, because that’s basically all there is. As such, it’s the sort of film where if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve already seen the best gags, although it’s still worth, ahem, CATCHING, for Ben Stiller and Rip Torn’s performances.
Gym Owners Go Head To Head
Vince Vaughn stars as Peter La Fleur, the under-achieving owner of Average Joe’s Gym. Average Joe’s is a run-down, ramshackle place that has somehow managed to stay afloat with just a small bunch of wacky, but loyal regulars, including one called Steve the Pirate (Alan Tudyk), who thinks he’s, well, a pirate. However, Average Joe’s faces stiff competition from Globo Gym, the muscle emporium across the street, run by White Goodman (Ben Stiller), who makes it clear that he intends to bulldoze Average Joe’s for parking space.
When the bank tells Peter that he needs $50,000 in 30 days or he’ll lose the gym, he enters his no-hope bunch of regulars in the national DodgeBall championship, largely because the prize money just happens to be the amount they need. However, not to be outdone, Goodman enters his own team…
Vince Vaughn has proven himself as a likeable comic actor, but here he
downplays his usual manic persona and ends up as the straight man of the film, which is a shame, as it frequently looks as if he just isn’t trying. As a result, it’s easy to imagine how much better Owen Wilson would have been in the role. By contrast, Ben Stiller is back on the comic form of Zoolander, after a couple of under-performing movies (Our House, Along Came Polly) where he played it relatively straight. His White Goodman is hilarious, an arrogant, stupid character with a painfully obvious Small Man Complex, complete with an inflatable crotch device.
In addition, there’s good support from Justin Long (as the team’s youngest member) and Christine (Mrs Ben Stiller) Taylor, as Kate Veatch, the bank representative who comes to deliver the bad news and ends up joining the team thanks to an unexpected flair for DodgeBall. However, the stand-out performance is Rip Torn, as their wheelchair-bidden coach, Patches O’Houlihan, with his somewhat unorthodox training techniques (“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”).
Script Feels Too Lazy
The main problem with the film is that the script feels very lazy, as if the writers hadn’t bothered to really develop any of the characters – for example, Steve the Pirate should have been hilarious, but his character is the joke and it doesn’t go anywhere. Similarly, the climax of the film feels rushed and is slightly disappointing.
That said, the DodgeBall tournament sequences are actually pretty good and there are several hilarious cameos (William Shatner, Hank Azaria), including one (helpfully spelled out for the audience) that provides one of the film’s biggest laughs.
In short, DodgeBall is an enjoyable Friday night comedy that delivers several decent laugh-out loud gags, even if it’s not the movie it could have been with a more thought-out script. Oh, and be sure to stay till after the credits for a hilarious (if repulsive) final gag.