Dodgeball, a True Underdog Story (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Dodgeball has a split personality. On its deepest level, it is a slick parody of all the "slobs vs snobs" movies ever made. On the surface, it also is one of those movies and adheres to their formulas and conventions. This dual strategy (Call it the Mel Brooks formula) gives the film more heart than a straight parody, because it creates kind of a sentimental veneer, keeps the comedy within a cohesive structure, and allows some identification with the characters. 

This film really has some great comic set pieces, but the advance marketing campaign gave away too much for free.

  • It starts out with Ben Stiller, as an evil corporate gym owner, doing a TV commercial for his stylish, glistening-steel-and-marble fitness center, the theme of which is "we're better than you, and we know it". Funny! But I had already seen it in the free internet clips.

  • Then there is a B&W dodgeball instructional film from the 1930s, featuring Hank Azaria as the legendary king of dodgeball, Patches O'Houlihan. This is hilarious, absolutely the funniest part of the movie - and I had already seen it in the free internet clips.

  • Then there was Rip Torn as the current version of Patches O'Houlihan, the gruff old master trying to whip a team of geeks and losers into a championship dodgeball team - by teaching them to dodge wrenches - "if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a big rubber ball". Also very funny - but I had already seen this, too, in the free internet clips on Yahoo.

I think I've made my point. This is a very funny film, absolutely one of the five best comedies of the year, and I enjoyed it, but I felt that I had already seen most of the best material.

There are two casting treats for you fans of Mike Judge's cult comedy Office Space:



DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber and actors Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn

  • 7 deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary by Rawson Marshall Thurber

  • Alternate ending with optional commentary by Rawson Marshall Thurber

  • Featurette: "Dodgeball Boot Camp: Training for Dodgeball"

  • Featurette: "The Anatomy of a Hit"

  • Bloopers/gag reel

  • Justin Long: A Study in Ham & Cheese

  • Dodgeball: Go for the Gold

  • 6 Easter eggs

  • The evil Lumbergh of Office Space (Gary Cole) is on hand to play the lead announcer for ESPN 8, "The Ocho" - a network which is spanning the globe to find you things which are almost like sports. Lumbergh's gimmick in this film is that he's playing a guy who knows way, way too much about the obscure sports he covers, and assumes we know just as much. After a dodgeball foot fault which affects the results of the World Championship, Lumbergh intones "we haven't seen anything like this in world-class dodgeball since the Helsinki incident of 1919, and I think we all know how that turned out." He doesn't tell us, by the way, because, well, because we all know how that turned out, dammit!

  • Milton the Mumbly Guy (Stephen Root), the Office Space schmuck who served as Lumbergh's chief whipping-boy, is also on hand as one of the members of Average Joe's team, which consists of nerds and misfits who try to save their run-down gym by trying to defeat Ben Stiller's team of professional dodgeball ringers.

There are some funny cameos as well. Lance Armstrong shows up to inspire the Average Joe team. David Hasselhoff, playing himself, coaches the German Dodgeball team (in German!). Bill Shatner is the commissioner of dodgeball.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus three stars. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It opened in the #1 spot, nearly doubling its top competitor, the Spielberg/Hanks movie, The Terminal. It took in $114 million in the USA and $51 million overseas. hit.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Dodgeball is a B-, since it was both a solid audience hit and a critical favorite (68% positive reviews).

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