Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story

2004

Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story

Critics Consensus

Proudly profane and splendidly silly, Dodgeball is a worthy spiritual successor to the goofball comedies of the 1980s.

70%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 161

76%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 995,602
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Movie Info

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story revolves around amiable underachiever Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn), whose rundown gym, Average Joe's, is populated by a less-than-average clientele including a self-styled pirate, an ultra-obscure sports aficionado, and a pining high school nerd. It soon becomes apparent that Joe's is in financial trouble and will soon be foreclosed by attractive attorney Kate Veach (Christine Taylor) - unless Peter can cough up $50,000. Despite Average Joe's posing little threat to Globo Gym, a fitness Goliath across the street that is owned by egomaniacal White Goodman (Ben Stiller) - Goodman senses an easy acquisition and decides to take over the facility. Peter's ragtag group of regulars, however, are less than thrilled with the prospects, and mobilize a showdown, winner-takes-all Dodgeball tournament against Globo Gym. The film also features Missi Pyle, Rip Torn, Stephen Root, and Alan Tudyk.

Cast

Vince Vaughn
as Peter LaFleur
Christine Taylor
as Kate Veach
Ben Stiller
as White Goodman
Rip Torn
as Patches O'Houlihan
Alan Tudyk
as Steve the Pirate
Jamal E. Duff
as Me'Shell Jones
Jamal Duff
as Me'Shell Jones
Gary Cole
as Cotton McKnight
Jason Bateman
as Pepper Brooks
Hank Azaria
as Young Patches O'Houlihan
Al Kaplon
as Tournament Referee
Chuck Norris
as Himself
William Shatner
as Dodgeball Chancellor
David Hasselhoff
as German Coach
Suzy Nakamura
as Gordon's Wife
LB Denberg
as Martha Johnstone
Julia Ensign
as Cheerleader #1
David Boyd
as Cheerleader #2
Bowd J. Beal
as Cheerleader #3
Tate Chalk
as Waldorf Referee
Jordyn Coleman
as Angry Troop #417 Girl
Hayley Rosales
as Bernice, Crying Troop #417 Girl
Bix Barnaba
as Homeless Man
Earl Schuman
as Elderly S&M Enthusiast
Tony Daly
as Ronnie
Amy Stiller
as Keno Waitress
Jim Cody Williams
as Weird Guy with Monster Truck
Doug Grimes
as Casino Roughian
Matt Levin
as Casino Worker #1
Rawson Marshall Thurber
as Obnoxious Las Vegas Homophobe
Sik End
as Friendly Bondage Master
Stephen B. Turner
as Frustrated Cougar
Tim Soergel
as Frustrated Cougar #2
Andy Chanley
as Uber Film Narrator/Globo Gym Ad Narrator
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Critic Reviews for Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story

All Critics (161) | Top Critics (39) | Fresh (113) | Rotten (48)

Audience Reviews for Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story

  • Aug 31, 2017
    Stephen Fry was once asked what he felt was the difference between British humour and American humour. He replied that in America, the standard comedy protagonist was a fast-talking wise-cracker who could talk his way out of any situation and was completely above people in authority who stood in his way. In Britain, on the other hand, comedy protagonists are usually underdogs steeped in character flaws, who go out of their way to be a good person but regularly come a cropper through self-sabotage, events beyond their control or a combination of the two. While in America anyone can make it to the big time and their success garners praise and adulation, in Britain misery is ironically celebrated and success is either rare or something always happening to other people. These two different approaches to comedy are very hard to reconcile, especially within the terms that Fry had couched them. But in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (Dodgeball hereafter), they do find some common ground, thanks to a story which is as old as dirt and a willingness to make fun of its main characters. Its humour is undeniably juvenile, and it would be very hard to argue that it brings anything new to the table as a sports movie. But taken as an example of genre film-making, it does just about enough to scrape a pass and sustain our attention while doing so. Even by general Hollywood standards, sports films are some of the most tightly formulaic offerings out there. It's easy to point at certain films which have created individual cliches within it - it's hard to watch any training montage without thinking of Rocky, for instance. But the beats of sports films are so predictable - at least when it comes to American offerings - that the sport itself becomes almost completely unimportant. You know from the outset that the underdogs are going to try their hardest to win, will come up against a team which is richer, more privileged or just generally better than them, things will get worse before they get better, and eventually through the power of teamwork and/or individual flair they will win the day (and someone may get the girl in the process). The kindest thing that you can say about Dodgeball is that it is fully aware of how generic it is, and is trying to having the most fun it can within those limiting parameters. It doesn't do anything to either challenge or subvert the narrative beats of the sports film, and from a structural point of view it brings very little that is new to the table. What it opts for instead is using the familiarity as a springboard into a gallery of over-the-top characters and outrageous slapstick from which very few people emerge unscathed. Having let its audience get settled into the story, it attempts to blind-side them by being offensive, profane and just plain silly - and while not every joke successfully lands, it deserves credit for its consistent effort. Much of the humour in Dodgeball is derived from outrageous situations reminiscent of the National Lampoon stable or the better works of the Farrelly brothers. There's no real reason for the team's kit to get mixed up with that of the S&M-themed team except to attract a laugh - just as there is no reason for Kate to reveal herself to be bisexual at the end of the film. The film unashamedly pitches itself to teenage boys and it's impossible to argue that all such jokes have dated well over the last 14 years. But at least it pitches itself as bad taste from the start and follows through with it, rather than claiming to be shocking and pulling its punches for fear of alienating its audience. Such an attitude also extends to most of the characters. Why does Alan Tudyk's character think he's a pirate? Because it's funny. Does the film care that there's no reason or purpose behind this? No. Why is Rip Torn's character allowed to put his team in situations which could potentially harm them (e.g. dodging moving cars and wrenches)? Because it's funny. Does the film care that any sane person would either sue him or have him arrested, and find someone else the second these things happened? No. Besides Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, none of the major players have believable motivations or anything resembling a developed role - their characters only make sense within the confines of generic convention. They are there and behave the way that they do because the plot demands it, and the film is far too lazy and straightforward to present them as a parody of sports film protagonists. If Vaughn gets a pass by being a believable avatar for the audience (for one of the few times in his career), Stiller does so by going in the opposite direction. White Goodman is a wonderfully silly creation, who epitomises the worst excesses of American self-belief and self-help culture. As he proved in Zoolander, Stiller is very adept at portraying flamboyant and overblown characters whose ego or rampant lack of self-awareness hides deep-rooted insecurities. It's arguably one of the best things he's ever done, if nothing else because of his total commitment to the character, and it's baffling that he was Razzie-nominated for what is one of the best performances in the film. In my review of We're The Millers, I said that any successful comedy has to simultaneously keep two balls in the air: it has to keep the characters likeable or appealing, and it has to punctuate their story with sufficient jokes. Having established that we largely relate to the characters out of genre familiarity, the success or failure of Dodgeball lies predominantly on whether it has enough jokes to see us through 92 minutes. Fortunately for director Rawson Marshall Thurber, there is enough in the tank this time around, even if the jokes he opts for won't be to everybody's tastes. The central problem with We're The Millers was that it took a half-decent narrative and ran it into the ground so quickly that it had to resort to badly-assembled improvisation and lazy gross-out jokes to keep the audience interested. In Dodgeball, the various movements of the story are so familiar that Thurber can practically set up the jokes in his sleep: he knows what needs to happen to make a given scene memorable (or at least tolerable), puts the camera in the place where the joke will work best, and crosses his fingers. Generally the slapstick is pretty good; people get painfully hit in all the usual places, but at least it's consistently funny to see them get hit. While the slapstick is generally good fun, the verbal comedy is less successful. The commentary featuring Gary Cole and Jason Bateman falls completely flat - it's a pale imitation of the baseball commentary scene in the first Naked Gun film and ends up being as inane as the commentary team in Mean Machine. Stiller's stilted put-downs are funny at first but become a little wearisome as the competition rolls on, and even Rip Torn's shtick starts to grate once the initial training is over. As for the cameos by Chuck Norris and William Shatner, they add very little and give the impression of a film running out of ideas. Because Dodgeball manages to keep the rate of its jokes up, and many of them at least somewhat hit the target, it ends up being a surprisingly likeable watch. It's comparable to the ending of Rat Race, insofar as you find yourself rooting for people and wanting good things to happen to them even as the rational part of your brain is working frantically to unpick and criticise their every move. Because it's so tightly hemmed in by convention and therefore so predictable in its outcome, you could never claimed to be surprised by it. But it does charm its way into your heart, even if it ultimately doesn't stay there very long afterwards. The film's visual sensibility is also pretty decent, given how phoned-in many sports films can look. Jerzy Zieli?ski has had a very mixed career as a cinematographer, but he did lens both The Secret Garden and Galaxy Quest. This is far closer to the later, with its emphasis on blues and purples as things move towards the climax and the film having an off-puttingly tacky sheen to reinforce the un-likeability of Goodman. It's not the most distinctive film on the market, but his decisions compliment Thurber's camera positions and the lighting is solid. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is a decent if largely unremarkable effort which you will find yourself enjoying slightly more than you expected. It hardly deserves to be hailed as a classic, either as a comedy or a sports film, being knee-deep in clichés and relying on its blunderbuss approach to humour to see it through. But thanks to two good performances and enough jokes that hit the target, it does enough to hold our attention and induce a good few chuckles through its brisk running time. If nothing else, it's evidence that Vince Vaughn isn't always completely unwatchable.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 28, 2013
    Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller are a comedy dream-team in this spastic-athletic comedy. Dodgeball's combined humor, silliness and crudeness makes for an entertaining picture for audiences to laugh at. The film takes the sports trait of adversity and heroism and directly and superbly hits it with balls. 4.5/5
    Eugene B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 18, 2012
    So bad that it's actually not that bad. The wackiness was consistent though out the film so all the goofs actually made some senses. Stiller's performance was remarkable. Typical sport film, but the awkwardness of the characters were enough for a good laugh
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Aug 28, 2012
    Surprisingly well written for a film with such a dumb concept. White Goodman is hilarious and the rest of the characters are funny as well. The story may seem simple but there's more that goes on than just the dodgeball games. It sure does help that many of the characters have depth; it makes the film much better. The humor is over the top and may not work for everyone but I laughed a lot.
    Eric S Super Reviewer

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