Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

2004, Movie, PG-13, 96 mins

Review

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Judging by the lowball ambitions of this Cinderella story about everyone's least favorite grade-school game, director-screenwriter Rawson Marshall Thurber subscribes to the same notion as underachieving hero Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn): "If you don't have a goal, you're never disappointed." Charming though he is, Peter can't quite get his act together: He's being hounded by creditors, his car barely works and his rundown gym, Average Joe's, is a haven for misfits who can't scrape up their membership dues. It's only a matter of time before bank officer Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) pays a visit to warn that if the $50,000 mortgage isn't paid in 30 days, foreclosure proceedings are imminent. Peter can't imagine who would want to purchase the dilapidated facility, but business rival White Goodman (Ben Stiller) — whose trendy Globo Gym proclaims, "We're better than you and we know it" — would love to level Average Joe's and build a parking lot. Peter turns to his gym's regulars for help and Gordon (Stephen Root), a connoisseur of obscure sports, suggests entering the Las Vegas International Dodgeball Open, which offers a $50,000 top prize. Peter assembles a six-man team — himself, Justin (Justin Long), Gordon, Owen (Joel David Moore), Dwight (Chris Williams) and Steve the Pirate (Alan Tudyk), and Justin borrows an ancient instructional video from his high school so they can brush up on the rules. They squeak through the regional challenge and barely earn a spot in the tournament, but mysteriously disabled dodgeball legend Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn) comes to their rescue, agreeing to whip the ragtag crew into tip-top shape. Meanwhile, White and his ultrabuff team weasel their way into competition, the better for White to put the moves on Kate. She not only rebuffs his sleazy advances but decides to lend her superstrong throwing arm to Peter's team. On the plus side, Vaughn and his squad of oddballs — especially Tudyk — are pretty funny, as are various bizarre cameos and an ESPN parody featuring the enthusiastic but dimwitted sportscaster (Jason Bateman). But Stiller doesn't know when to stop; his thoroughly repellent character, whose relationship with pizza makes AMERICAN PIE's pastry lover seem wholesome, verges on the unwatchable — especially when he's wearing a repulsive fat suit. And be warned: The end credits contain a particularly nauseating image you'll wish you could delete from memory. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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