I haven't been much into comedy these last few years. So few of them ever seem to have a point, which may be why I gravitate toward romantic comedies, fooling a hundred thousand babes into thinking I'm some kind of sensitive marshmallow.
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But tonight I was itching to get up and go somewhere, so I elected to give Harold & Kumar a try. Only when I get to the theater do I see that the movie actually started 15 minutes earlier than the website said it would (dont'cha hate that!), so I pulled the expectations down a notch and went for Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story instead.
I was laughing all the way home.
I haven't seen a movie this good and stupid since I can't even remember when. Usually, a movie falls flat on its face and people groan. Dodgeball falls flat on its face so many times, you actually start to think, "Oh my God, they're actually serious."
Our story is set in Anywhereville, USA, where Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) runs his own little "indie" gym, called The Average Joes. The regular comer-inners are not the most "fit" individuals, physically or mentally, but they are a tight enough group of friends that Peter has tolerated their not paying membership fees for over a year.
Across the street, there is Globo-Gym, a 4-million dollar enterprise run by White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Like a Wal*Mart Supercenter, Globo-Gym is poised to put the little guys out of business. Now with a $50,000 debt on their hands, The Average Joes must find a way to raise the money. And like a guardian angel, here comes the answer -- a Dodgeball tournament in which the grand prize is $50,000. As Everclear once said, "Yeah RIGHT!"
One of the guys brings in a hilarious black & white film (which we watch) tutoring the guys on how to play dodgeball, and it's off to the games. But not before the actual trainer from that film (Rip Torn) makes an appearance to help educate these guys in the fundamentals of the game. Then there is a bank lady, Kate, who plays the game better than the five guys combined. As my spastic 1993 self would say, "Of course. Of course."
Dodgeball is like a combination of The Karate Kid, The Wizard, and (insert almost any other sports-related movie out there). It runs at a pretty brisk hour and a half, which means you won't be stuck all day investing yourself in the story. However, there is a pretty good bit of character-related conflict as much as there is throwing balls (or wrenches) around. So the investing turns out to be at least moderately worthwhile.
Most every actor/actress here jumps onto a so-bad-it's-hilarious script with reckless abandon, starting with Stiller's psychotic Richard Simmons opening. Here, we are introduced to the Globo-Gym, whose motto is "We are better than you, and we know it!" Stiller is one of today's most adept actors at playing the same character over and over again, but in Dodgeball he really cuts loose with the exaggerated facial gestures and twitches. I guess comparing him to Jim Carrey would be a bit much, but he's not far from that level of insanity with his portrayal of the egomaniacal White Goodman. Believe it or not, his cardboard stand-up actually made me jump.
Vince Vaughn is the most regular guy in the movie, a jaded fellow with a whole lot of inner reserve, which he gradually starts to tap into as time goes on. His mellow vibes make an effective platform for Stiller's humor to "ricochet" off of, as his delayed response gives you a second to digest how utterly stupid that line just was ("Oh, I don't think I'm a lot dumber than you think that I thought I once was.")
Even while bound to a wheelchair, Rip Torn is one crazy guy. He plays Patches, the coach with the slightest of sadistic tendencies, but he has the perfect face for the role. Christine Taylor reminds me of a blonde Jennifer Aniston, and she's more here for the looks than the acting. Not that I'm complaining, man. This movie would've been even better if I had remembered that she was Ben Stiller's wife in real life. She's sssssss-mokin'!
The movie's title pretty much tells all about what happens, but like the rollercoaster, it's the ride that counts. The sound of balls hitting people packs such a wallop that it sounds more like someone getting whacked across the face with a metal beam. Opponents range from a fivesome of girl scouts to a bunch of Japanese guys in diapers to the Globo-Gym guys themselves. The only complaint I have is that I think they could've gone a little more crazy with the choreography in the dodgeball games. The way the rest of the movie plays out, nobody would flinch if the players started doing Spider-Man moves in the middle of the game. As it is, the dodgeball games are pretty ordinary.
It all ends up being fairly predictable, but as it is, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is the funniest movie I've seen all year. Man do I miss that.
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