Film Review – Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Seeing people getting hit by things is funny. It probably shouldn’t be, but watching the pain of others is the basis of comedy, so we have no choice. Which is why Dodgeball is funny. Seeing balls, wrenches, cars and fists hit other people in perfectly timed physical comedy will make you laugh.

The plot sees Peter Le Fleur (Vince Vaughan) in charge of Average Joe’s Gym, which needs $50K in a month or he’ll lose it to White Goodman (Ben Stiller); however, that’s not really important. The point is that it allows for embracing and enjoying sporting film clichés for the sake of laugh-out-loud comedy, which is done well so rarely.

Vaughan is great as the relaxed counterpoint to Stiller’s preening uber-gym nut (who is funny as a man who gives his nipples electric shocks if he tries to eat a doughnut, or is caught about to hump a piece of pizza because he can’t allow himself to eat it but he loves it so much…), and the supporting cast have fun in their roles, especially Rip Torn as the grizzled old dodgeball coach, Patches O’Houlihan, who has some great lines (‘You’re about as useful as a cock-flavoured lollipop.’ ‘You look like a bunch of retards trying to fuck a door knob.’) and Gary Cole as Cotton McKnight, the dodgeball commentator, ably backed by Jason Bateman as Pepper Brooks, his dim-witted co-commentator. David Hasselhoff shows up for a very funny cameo, and Hank Azaria is very funny as a young Patches O’Houlihan in a dodgeball training film from the ’50s. Special kudos must go to Justin Long, who gets hit, a lot, in the head and in the body with all manner of objects throughout the film (and in out-takes), and he is continually funny doing so, there should be some sort of comedy award for him.

I’ve never seen anything by the writer/director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, but he has a knack for comedy here, with a good idea seen through to the end (although his original ending was so, so wrong) and a good ear for dialogue and names and he makes the story flow well, so I’ll be looking out for his next film. There is nothing earth-shattering about his film, it’s not the Citizen Kane of comedy (although it is probably the Citizen Kane of dodgeball movies), but it is very funny, in a silly way, which is a good thing. In fact, my recommendation comes with the fact that I actually paid money to see this, instead of getting it via my free DVD trial, and I still liked it.

Rating: DAVE

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