Plot: Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) is as laid back as a man could be, even when it comes to his business, Average Joe’s Gym. He keeps terrible records and hasn’t collected dues in over a year, but he loves his clients and spends a lot of time out with the people. His clients are’t the usual gym goers, as most of the serious fitness folks choose GloboGym, a huge corporate chain that happens to be right next door. GloboGym is run by White Goodman (Ben Stiller), a fitness guru who was once fat, but is now a picture of physical fitness. Peter soon learns that Goodman has purchased his gym’s mortgage from the bank, which means unless Peter can scrape up the cash and quick, GloboGym will have a new parking lot where Average Joe’s stands. After a failed car wash fundraiser, the idea is brought up to enter a national dodgeball tournament, which has a prize of fifty-thousand dollars. Peter is hesitant, but his clients are determined to keep the doors open. The road is rocky, but with some help from a former dodgeball champion, the group enters the tournament. But when GloboGym also fields a team, does it spell disaster for Average Joe’s?
Entertainment Value: If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. Such is the timeless lesson learned from Dodgeball, an outlandish movie that is rooted in the old style sports movie genre, in which a band of misfits team up to take on the superior forces. The case even says it all, calling Dodgeball a “true underdog story,” which is quite accurate. But aside from the basic formula and presence of the grizzled, burned out old coach, this bears little resemblance to films like Major League, Necessary Roughness, or The Replacements. The guys don’t even know the sport until halfway through the movie, but the usual training sessions are present and in an odd little twist, the guys never really get that good, which adds in some freshness. This is basically a lowbrow comedy with some sports added in, a blend that works well and if nothing else, provides one outrageous moment after another. No one will confuse this for a cinema classic, but it is a lot of fun to watch.
The cast here is a colorful ensemble headed up by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller as rivals in a relentless competition. The two don’t share a lot of screen time, but they are more than capable leads and offer an effective contrast. Vaughn’s performance is laid back and effortless, while Stiller goes insanely over the top, in a high energy, Richard Simmons style turn. I can see how some would dislike Stiller’s role here, as he really dials it up to ludicrous levels, but he is used well and it never feels like overkill. Rip Torn also has a fun role and goes for broke as the bitter, sadistic coach, while Christine Taylor isn’t given much to do, but she has some humorous reactions. The cast also includes Justin Long, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, and Jason Bateman, as well as several other familiar faces in smaller roles. At the end of the day, Dodgeball is a ridiculous comedy that some will find hilarious and others will find stupid, so your enjoyment will likely depend on your penchant for over the top humor.