Fox // 2004 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // January 17th, 2005
Grab life by the ball.
One of the hit comedies of the summer of 2004, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story featured Vince Vaughn (Swingers, Old School) and Ben Stiller (There's Something About Mary, Meet The Parents) as arch rivals in a contest game conceived for kids to engage in on the playground. For those of you who grew up being pummeled by that huge red rubber ball, Dodgeball may be your worst nightmare -- and it's now available on DVD care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Dodgeball is about heroes. It's about men of action. It's about rising up and claiming your birthright to...err, play a game where you throw balls at each other. For underachiever Peter LaFleur (Vaughn), the game of dodgeball is about to become a lifesaver. Peter owns and operates a struggling gym -- aptly named Average Joe's -- which is close to being extinct due to Peter's rival, the egotistical White Goodman (Ben Stiller, Meet the Parents). Goodman owns an enormous, successful athletic center across the street called Globo-Gym, which is threatening to put Average Joe's out of business. Peter and a band of his misfit clients -- including a weakling, a fat guy, a guy who thinks he's a pirate, et cetera -- see an ad for a dodgeball tournament and decide to risk it all, with the help of a salty, wheelchair bound trainer named Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn, Men In Black II), to raise $50,000 dollars and save Average Joe's. When they find out that White Goodman's team is also competing in the tournament, the heat is turned up as Peter and White go head-to-head in the most vicious, no-holds-barred game of dodgeball this side of the school playground!
Just the fact that this movie was about the game of dodgeball drew me in. I can remember long gym class days on the blacktop, throwing and dodging those rubber balls. It was, I think, one of the only sports on earth that could be played without any real discernable athletic skills ("Butts Up" could also be put in this category, though the name alone keeps it an island unto itself). Invariably the most atrociously vile event preceded the game of dodgeball: the ceremonial picking of teams. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of education's most evil institutions: many of us were relegated to the two most cruel words in the English language: "picked last." Yes, nothing says humiliation like having a group of kids who are all the size of Stonehenge roll their eyes and point at you, disappointed that you're lanky body will be (dis)gracing their team.
If any of what I just wrote struck a chord in you, then Dodgeball is your kind of movie. It's being billed as "A True Underdog Tale," and ain't that the truth: Dodgeball is filled with its share of freaks and geeks. Vince Vaughn leads a cast of misfits, dweebs, and all-around grade-A goobers to a victory that can only be called a "true underdog story" (wait, it is called that!). Vaughn's team members -- including Stephen Root (Office Space), Alan Tudyk (28 Days), and Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers) -- are all appropriately goofy and likable. I even enjoyed Christine Taylor's (Stiller's real life wife) sexy yet tough love interest who's got the hots for Peter but despises everything White Goodman stands for. Vince Vaughn goes into autopilot with his role of Peter LaFleur (only one degree down from his role in Old School), but still fits the bill as Goodman's amiable nemesis. Unfortunately, the one kink in this chain is Ben Stiller -- while his character has moments of amusement, overall he's played too over-the-top to be an effective comedic character.
The comedy bits range from mediocre to good, but never great. There are a few hearty laughs to be found here (as when one character flashes back to a cheerleading tryout from hell), but the writing isn't what I'd consider razor sharp. Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber often relies too heavily on physical humor instead of truly clever zingers and one-liners. To be specific, there's one too many crotch jokes in this movie. However, since this is Thurber's first feature film, I'd say he has promise if he can hone his comedy skills into a more focused screenplay.
But Dodgeball isn't trying to be a classic comedy like The Apartment, or even Joe's Apartment, for that matter. It's only out to make you laugh for a good hour and a half, and most of the time it was able to steal a smile from my face. Though I'm sure it won't go on to become one of the great comedies of the decade, it's an ample enough time waster on a Saturday night.
Dodgeball is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Fox has done a great job of making sure this transfer is in sparkling shape -- the colors and black levels are all bright and well rendered. In fact, when that big red ball came towards the screen...I dodged! (Because if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!) I was hard pressed to find any big defects or flaws in this print -- overall it's clear of any dirt, grain, or other imperfections.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. This sound mix is very good, if not great. There are many instances where the surround sound feature is in full effect via the front and rear speakers, especially during the dodgeball tournaments. Otherwise, when it's just dialogue between characters, it's a mostly front heavy mix. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles, as well as Spanish and French soundtracks in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround.
Fox has included enough special features on this disc to placate fans of the film. Starting off the disc is a commentary track with director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Vince Vaughn, and Ben Stiller. This commentary is amusing at times and provides enough info on the making of the film to win over listeners. Also included is a batch of deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary by the director. Four featurettes are included ("Dodgeball Boot Camp: Training For Dodgeball," "The Anatomy Of A Hit," "Justin Long: A Study In Ham & Cheese," and "Dodgeball: Go For the Gold") along with a gag reel filled with the cast making mistakes with their lines. Finally there are two theatrical trailers for the film, a few previews for other Fox releases, and some DVD-ROM content.
Dodgeball isn't going to change the world, but it will make you laugh. That was enough for this reviewer to recommend it. Fox's work on this disc is about on par with what it deserved.
Watch out for those wrenches!
Review content copyright © 2005 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary Track with Director Rawson Marshall Thurber and Actors Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller
* Blooper Reel
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Four Featurettes
* Two Theatrical Trailers
* DVD-ROM Content
* Bonus Trailers
* Official Site
* American Dodgeball Federation