Not Quite a Balls Up

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball - Patches O'Houlihan

Ben Stiller as White Goodman in Dodgeball

To be totally honest, I really did not find "DodgeBall" that funny, well to start with anyway. But having watched it a few times it has sort of grown one me. Not that it is an exceptionally good movie; in fact it is distinctly average and similar in many ways to so many other comedies which seem to be popular at the moment. Everything about it screams average from the wafer thin plot, the paper thin characters, the distinctly stereotypical performances and the juvenile humour which could have easily been pulled from numerous other comedies. But despite all this, "DodgeBall" does manage to raise a few laughs, and whilst the plot is nothing more than a vehicle for the jokes, it is just enough to build upon.

With the threat of losing his gym, Average Joe's, to his main competitor Globo gym, unless he can find enough money to pay off his mortgage. Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn - Starsky & Hutch) is resigned to the fact that his cause is a hopeless one. His only remaining chance is to win the national DodgeBall tournament, but with only his misfit employees and patrons to make up the numbers, things don't look good. Especially when White Goodman (Ben Stiller - Along Came Polly) the egotistical owner of Globo gym, decides to enter his own team of highly tuned sportsmen into the same competition in the hope of stopping La Fleur in his tracks.

Chris Williams and Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball

The main premise of "Dodgeball" is that the owner of Average Joe's gym has to raise enough money to stop his rival from closing him down. If you were looking to try and find any reasoning behind this you would be distinctly hard pushed as Average Joe's is exactly what it says it is, Average and not any threat to the commercially successful Globo gym. There by dismissing this comedy to the ranks of purely an entertainment vehicle which whilst based in the real world makes no attempt to make the plot realistic. This is heightened by the fact that the misfits who work and use Average Joe's decide to enter into the DodgeBall competition, despite a distinct lack of experience. So straight away you know the film is going to try and entertain through using preposterous premises to make you laugh, which sadly don't always hit the mark.

So much more could have been done with the plot to make it more substantial and funny, but the writers behind the film have spent more time trying to make us laugh with lack lustre jokes than give us a decent storyline. In fact the film could be easily compared to numerous sports movies where the underdog team attempts to beat the odds and come out triumphant. In fact by using this theme with all the predictable scenes of the ridiculous over the top training and heartbreak thrown in does nothing to make it more palatable to the viewer. Add to this a romance storyline which is never used other than being thrown in for good measure acts as just unnecessary padding.

As previously mentioned the writers have concentrated on throwing humour at us where ever possible and whilst some of the jokes are quite funny many fall flat. With a good majority of the humour revolving around unsophisticated gags filled with sexual innuendo or bodily functions, most of the time these jokes fail to raise more than a slight smile. Maybe the problem lies in the fact that for the past few years a lot of modern comedies have followed the same suit using crudeness instead of intelligence to gain cheap laughs and by all following the same line have become predictable and boring. Maybe the humour is aimed at a much younger audience and with a certificate of 15, this may well be the case, but it seems a shame that the film fails to appeal to an older viewer. Another surprising problem lies in the length of the film and at only 88 minutes you would think that maybe it is too short, but in fact due to the issues with lame jokes and weak plot the film actually drags and feels much longer than it actually is.

It also feels like the writers forgot about giving us any real characters in the film, except for White Goodman who seems larger than life. Not that I am saying that these characters should have a huge back history or be overly detailed, far from it. But except for the character of Goodman none of the other characters come across as being more than paper thin and in reality are only there to be part of one gag or another. Whilst the characters themselves are not great, the performances from Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller are one of the few real redeeming features of the film. Whilst Vaughn's laid back portrayal of Peter La Fleur works brilliantly allowing him to actually become the average bloke who seems to accept his life for what it is. Ben Stiller's over the top performance as the egomaniacal White Goodman is in my opinion one of his most enjoyable in quite a while. It feels like he has had free reign to make Goodman an over the top caricature and has done it brilliantly drawing on many sources to achieve a truly memorable creation.

Sadly the rest of the cast fail to really make anything of their characters, mainly down to the fact that they are not meant to. With the exception of Rip Torn as DodgeBall legend Patches O'Houlihan, who somehow manages to put some life into another hugely underwritten character. Whilst the performances and characters are not the greatest you get a sense that they had some fun making this, especially as Ben Stiller's wife plays the love interest who rejects his characters over the top advances.

Despite his inexperience director/ writer Rawson Marshall Thurber has actually done an adequate job of creating a comedy which is on a par with the majority of other recent comedies such as "Wedding Crashers" and "Zoolander". My only real criticism comes from the fact he has not done anything new with the genre and so at times it feels like he is trying to imitate other comedies. You could say if it isn't broke don't fix it, but personally I am becoming bored by these comedies feeling very samey.

What this all boils down to is that when you look at "DodgeBall" on an individual basis it is rather average, with a pretty poor script which serves only as a vehicle for the humour, which in turn does not always work. Add to this the rather poor characters and to be honest it is nothing special. But compare it to the majority of comedies which feature the likes of Stiller and Vaughn and it is on par with the majority of them, amusing but not gut bustingly funny. The only thing which in my opinion which stops it from being less than average is the performances from Stiller and Vaughn which make it watch able. Although I will watch this every now and then, it is a film which serves as background noise more than something I will focus intently on.

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