Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
***.8 BM
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Stephen Root, Justin Long, Missi Pyle, Rip Torn, Alan Tudyk, Gary Cole, Jason Bateman, Christopher Williams, Joel Moore, Jamal E. Duff


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I went to see this as a lark. I expected it to be the run-of-the-mill 'dumb' comedy, a rickety plot as an excuse for Ben Stiller to mug and goof and put his wife in a movie, with long stretches between amusing bits. It was free, though, and I had just enough hope that it could be goofy enough to amuse my easily-amused ass.

Turns out to be a significant yukfest. Simple setup - Vince Vaughn is an easy-going doofus that runs a shitty gym full of losers called Average Joe's, operating next to the gigantic corporate megolith Globogym, run by Ben Stiller's hyperactive arrogant fitness goober guru. Average Joe's needs to come up with 50 grand in a month, so they enter a big dodgeball tournament with a cash prize at stake, but Ben Stiller's bent on buying out Average Joe's on principle, so he enters the tourney, too, and then they play a lot of dodgeball, which leads to amusing impacts of balls with heads and nuts and faces and such.

It's not a good movie by any means, but it's well aware of that fact, and periodically takes advantage of it. Ben Stiller's goony character, while not able to save the broader, dumber jokes, is just weirdly jittery and spastic enough to remain somewhat amusing in spite of the overly obvious parody. The script wisely has Vaughn just let Stiller do his thing and shrug off the taunting, disinterested in it rather than having to try to one-up each other, and Vaughn's character is more enjoyable because of it. Stephen Root is also pretty good, although it's a bit of an extension of his character from "Office Space." Rip Torn, always good as an insane guy.

What works best about this film, aside from various amusing cameos and the visceral "America's Funniest Home Videos" enjoyment of people getting hit by objects like wrenches and cars, is when it recognizes the standard conventions of dumb comedies and monkeys with them. Lance Armstrong's bit, Gary Cole & Jason Bateman on commentary and the post-credits Stiller goof are signs of more intelligence than usual at work here, and it makes me kinda wanna see it again just to see if there are any jokes I missed because I wasn't expecting to have to look for them. Then again, the sloppy-looking editing makes me think twice - perhaps they were lucky to have the jokes they managed to squeeze in.

It's fun! Decent use of Chris DeBergh's "The Lady in Red," too.

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