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Review: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

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Written and Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

If you can dodge this movie, you can dodge losing two hours of your life.

I couldn’t believe how bad this movie was. It was an utter waste of time unless you’re under 14 or else stoned on some type of inhalant. Sure, there were some mildly amusing parts, but nothing that made me laugh out loud. The “jokes” are mostly bizarre non-sequiturs that make you turn to the person sitting next to you to see if you missed something, only to find the same blank stare looking back at you. I kept waiting for something funny to happen and it never did, but it’s my own fault because I saw the trailer and that didn’t have anything funny in it.

The film sets up a story that we are supposed to care about: a little gym needs to raise money so the big gym doesn’t buy them out. The gym is filled with a bunch of social deviants that are unappealing so I don’t care what happens to them or their gym. The gang runs out of options to raise money, so they enter a dodgeball tournament against professionals. The big gym enters the competition as well. Hmm, I wonder if they will meet up in the final game?

Here’s an example of what little went into the creation of the characters by the writer. Steve thinks he’s a pirate, but it’s never explained why. As the pressure starts to weigh on him before the big game, Vince freaks out and tells Steve that he’s not a pirate. Steve is distraught as he walks the Vegas strip and passers-by throw things at him from a car. The next morning he misses the big game. He shows up later and doesn’t dress or talk like a pirate anymore. How could it have been that easy?

I understand the unknown actors who have never been in a film appearing in this in the hopes that this will introduce them to the public, but what the hell are the other talented people doing in it? Vince Vaughn is one of the stars and he did as much as he could with the material, which isn’t saying much. He’s not terribly funny in the film, but he’s not awful. Luckily, the others are so unfunny that it makes him look better. Stephen Root plays a version of his character Bill Dauterive from King of the Hill, so I hope Mike Judge gets a piece of the action. His character has a mail-order bride who hates him almost as much as I did.

What the hell is Rip Torn doing? Looking at his resume, I can’t imagine he turns anything down that fits into his schedule. He went from Larry Sanders and Wonder Boys to Freddy Got Fingered and this. In this film, he plays a wheelchair-bound, former dodgeball player that coaches the guys by having them run through traffic and punching them in their balls. He dies when a large neon sign falls on him, but then his ghostly image appears in his old scarf to pass on some wisdom about the game. “Hey, crotch stain,” are his first words from beyond. Oh, what a gem. I hope they all got paid well and enjoyed their time in Vegas.

Ben Stiller is a huge part of the problem with this film. He tries so hard to be funny that it is painful to watch. There’s nothing to his character other than a goofy voice and the unbelievably stupid things he says. His lines come across as if they were improvised but they ran out of time to create anything that was funny or made sense in the story. I didn’t understand how the writer/director, trying to make it in this cruel business, could let such a thing happen until I remembered that Stiller is one of the producers.

Stiller needs to fire his agent, manager and any other yes-men who went along with the decisions regarding this film. How could anyone read this script and not realize that the traffic school film that shows fatal car crashes would have made a better comedy? This is the first time I’ve advocated this policy, but for cryin’ out loud, Ben, would you just say, “No.” What was the last good movie this guy made? I saw Anchorman and cringed at his unfunny cameo. He has over-saturated himself and is about to be entered into the Lost Boys of Cinema. Forget abortion rights and gay marriage; if the Congress really wants to do something important for the betterment of the country and the world, they will enact some kind of regulation to stop him before he strikes again. He has got to stop making movies.

There is a segment at the end of the credits that shows how Ben’s character has ended up. If you want to become bewildered, you should stay for it. After all, you might be out of inhalants by then.
SC:Tan The Man

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Dude, this movie was pretty funny. I think maybe you expected too much.

    BTW, the explanation of the pirate thing is actually interesting. The DVD extras reveal that the filmmaker originally wanted the movie to end with the underdogs losing, but when it tested horribly the producers insisted on filming new scenes to add the last few minutes with the cone of shame and so on. So the only scene in which we see Steve not as a pirate is one that was filmed much much later under duress.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com Lono

    I totally enjoyed it. Now, when watching a movie like this you know it isn’t great cinema… and you certainly don’t pay $10 a person to see it in a theatre. No sir, a movie like this screams ‘renter’. That being said, I set aside a Friday night with a 6 pack of beer and laughed my ass off watching the DVD.

    The whole film is worth it just for the few shots of Rip Torn – ‘if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!’

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    One of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years. Stiller was perfectly cast here. It seems as if you missed the point. He’s supposed to be ridiuclously over the top as a parody.

    It has Christime Taylor too. Can’t argue with that.

  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    The funniest moment is when Vaughn thanks Chuck Norris for his vote to have a sudden death.

    “Thank you – Chuck Norris.”

    Fun stuff…

  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    Ben Stiller – “He tries so hard to be funny that it is painful to watch.”

    That might be more or a character issue than an actor issue. His character was supposed to be obnoxious.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I only expected the movie to be funny. It wasn’t.

    I got that Stiller was supposed to be over the top. He was also supposed to be funny. He wasn’t.

    Remind me to drink at least a six-pack like Lono before any of you invite me over for comedy night.

  • Sunny

    I love this movie! It’s full of one-liners that I recite all the time.

    I thought it would be d-u-m-b, dumb; but I really got a kick out of it and laughed my butt off.

    I’m wondering how much differnt the “unrated” version is from the original DVD that was released.

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