DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story Review
First time writer director Rawson Marshall Thurber (I’m not sure that name is funnier if it’s real or the product of a rather odd imagination) claims he wrote this movie with the two lead actors in mind. Whilst it must usually be rather a compliment to be told someone wrote a film for you, you’d have to wonder what Stiller’s reaction to that was once he’d had some time with this rather unusual script.
Stiller plays White Goodman, once a compulsive overeater weighing in at over 700lbs, now the owner of Globo Gym, a chain of all-in-one fitness centres and plastic surgery offices, Globo Gym can turn you into the you you always wanted to be, just as soon as they teach you to hate the you you are now. Joe LeFluer (Vince Vaughn) owns Average Joe’s gym, it’s not a chain, in fact it’s barely a gym, more a tax dodge and hangout for a selection of guys that feel they really should be doing something to improve their bodies, but aren’t committed enough to the cause to set foot in Globo Gym – even though it’s only across the street. Average Joe’s doesn’t make much money, but it serves a more important purpose of being the social centre for these oddballs, people who’d have a tough time even finding a bar they could waste their days in. Which is why the news that Average Joe’s is in foreclosure comes as rather a blow, nobody wants to go across the street, but to add insult to injury White is trying to buy the gym to turn it into an auxiliary parking structure for Globo Gym members. And the only way Joe’s can stop it is to come up with the balance of their mortgage in 30 days, a not insubstantial $50,000. A glance through OSQ (that’s Obscure Sports Quarterly) gives Joe’s a glimpse of hope, the international dodgeball tournament is being held in Las Vegas at the end of the month, and wouldn’t you know first prize is $50,000. Moreover, the final qualifying round is in their town. It must be fate. Of course the tournament won’t be a breeze, apart from the fact they’re all dodgeball virgins, White Goodman has greased a few palms and now Average Joe’s will have to defeat not only the cream of the international dodgeball community, but also the Globo Gym Purple Cobra’s if they want to get their hands on the money.
Stiller has made a habit of appearing in some rather high concept comedies, and DodgeBall falls somewhere between Zoolander and Baseketball (which was made by, and starring, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame) on the comedy spectrum. Which is to say, it’s pretty odd, very childish, and often verging on obscene. If feel almost ashamed at how many times this film made me laugh, simply by hitting hapless Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers) with a dodgeball, often pretty hard, and in painful places. It’s like the guilty pleasure of Jackass and its ilk, the Germans call it shadenfraude – laughter caused by the misfortune of others – and DodgeBall has it in spades. Sometimes it goes too far, Rip Torn’s dodgeball hall-of-famer Patches O’Hulahan, pelting the budding dodgeballers with wrenches is rather one step beyond, but largely it’s just silly rather than outright ridiculous.
Ben Stiller once again proves he’ll do absolutely anything for a laugh, dancing around the dodgeball court with only a unitard and a handlebar moustache to protect his dignity, the idiotic Goodman is another fantastic creation who spits out quotable lines faster than he throws dodgeballs, but incredibly he’s not the most ridiculous character in the film. That honour goes to Alan Tudyk in his role as Pirate Steve. Yeah that’s exactly what it sounds like, Steve thinks he’s a pirate, he dresses like a pirate, he talks like a pirate and he lives by a pirate code (“The dread pirate Steve be in no man’s debt, I’ll make a barter with ya, true as the north star”), he probably sleeps on the beach after a pint or two or rum as well. And if you think that actually sounds pretty funny, rather than just idiotic, then DodgeBall could just be the movie for you. Thurber, impressively for a first time writer and director, manages to keep the jokes coming thick and fast, right up until the end of the movie, and even manages to tie things up in a way that almost manages to not be sickening – if still predictable. But this is a sports movie, even if it isn’t a sport you’d heard of before, so what more did you expect?
As usual 20th Century Fox have had no problems bringing DodgeBall to DVD with a fine picture. Presented anamorphically in a 2.35:1 ratio DodgeBall looks good for the most part, but when the guys get to the bright lights of Vegas and onto the dodgeball court it looks even better. A very slick presentation.
I was pleasantly surprised with the sound presentation on DodgeBall. Comedies can often be difficult, it’s easy to impress with an action movie, but when things aren’t exploding left right and centre it can fall flat. Luckily the Dolby Digital 5.1 track here takes every opportunity for excess, everything from the roaring crowds to the fantastic sound of a ricocheting dodgeball sounds crisp and vibrant, making for a very enjoyable listening experience.
Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary from Director Rawson Marshall Thurber
The original ending was very different from the one Thurber was finally forced to go with, and it’s easy to see why the studio would have been rather nervous about putting the film out with this ending. It’s rather unusual but in many ways I prefer it, though you’ll find less laughs here, but I look forward to the day we can see an ending like this in theatres. Thurber’s comments seem to imply that he had to go back and re-shoot the ending after the studio didn’t like this one, but his comments on the group commentary indicate that this ending was only ever in an early draft of the script, and even then in a fuller version than is presented here.
Commentary from director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller
The film’s three main players seem to be rather enjoying themselves on this commentary, and that makes for very easy listening. They talk about all aspects of the film, but probably the most revealing thing discussed is the Fox rules for commentary tracks. Despite most DVDs this days coming with a standard disclaimer informing us that the commentators are expressing their own opinions and are not official studio spokespeople, there seem to be a lot of rules governing their discussion topics. At one point they think someone is coming from the booth to shut them down because they won’t stop mentioning films that aren’t owned by 20th Century Fox.
Deleted and Extended Scenes with optional Commentary from Rawson Marshall Thurber
9 minutes of scenes grace the disc here, though they are mostly just extended versions. Thurber once again provides commentary, though – not unusually for deleted scenes – he doesn’t have much to say other than that the scenes were cut for pacing reasons. It is good to hear him talk about one scene that the studio made him cut, and being a first time director he didn’t have the power to argue with them.
DodgeBall Boot Camp: Training for DodgeBall
The cast was subjected to a month long dodgeball training camp before filming started, and it seems they all underestimated just how much exercise is involved in the game, as all the behind the scenes footage shows them looking rather out of breath, and they all seem to be complaining about how tired they were and how many bruises they got.
The Anatomy of a Hit
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s far funnier to smack someone in the face than in the arm, so that was a deduction we didn’t really need spelled out for us. What this featurette does do well though, is throw together almost every painful dodgeball to the face, the groin or anywhere else in the film, in one handy package.
Justin Long: A Study in Ham and Cheese
Undoubtedly the least fortunate member of Average Joe’s was Justin Long, taking a beating both on the court and in training, the man has a talent for taking a hit. Here we get to see a collection of not only his greatest dodgeballing moments, but also many of his less physical funny moments from the film, including scenes that didn’t make it and a lot of alternate takes.
DodgeBall: Go for the Gold
Just a quick one here, as Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn sit down and about why they feel that dodgeball should be embraced by the Olympic committee and made an official Olympic sport at the next games. Hell, I’d rather watch it than synchronised diving.
A short collection of screw-ups from the movie that once again leaves me wondering if there are really people that enjoy these things, as for me they usually look like they only have ‘you had to be there’ appeal to them.
Usually DVD Easter eggs aren’t worth the effort it takes to uncover them, and while not everything on this disc is golden, it does contain some that are far above what you’d usually find.
The first egg is the key to the rest, found by selecting the Purple Cobras logo on the special features menu you’ll be treated to a clip of Stiller telling us the rest are activated by pressing the enter button on your remote whenever White Goodman snaps his fingers.
Deleted Scene – Activated when White climbs into the sun bed at Globo Gym
A slight variation on the introduction of the Globo Gym Purple Cobras in which the line-up includes White’s cousin Geoff, who’s staying with him this week.
– Activated when White has Kate escorted from his office
Just a brief clip of Goodman congratulating you for entering nerdville by finding an Easter egg. You should be proud of yourself.
Feature Commentary from Director Rawson Marshall Thurber - Activated after White has introduced the Globo Gym Purple Cobras
Although Thurber gets to share a track with Stiller and Vaughn, this Easter egg sees him getting a whole track to himself. I suspect that this was recorded first, and relegated to Easter egg status when someone decided to go with a funnier main track, and while it isn’t as entertaining as the group track it is full of information and Thurber has no problem finding things to talk about as he talks about the movie right from the scriptwriting stage.
White Goodman Motivational Video – Activated after White leaves Kate’s House
This is all the footage that plays on the giant screen in Globo Gym, seen only for seconds in the film there are about 3 minutes here of Goodman’s motivational comments, such as “You’ve got to burn it to earn it!”, “You call that a sit up?” and “Hey Jimmy, only quitters quit, turn it around!”
Girls – Activated when White meets with Peter in his hotel room
The one will get you 15 seconds of Justin Long frolicking with the Bikini Car Wash girls.
Fox have taken to including a promotional reel for their upcoming releases on their new DVDs, this one is a brief look behind the scenes of Electra, the Daredevil spin-off starring Jennifer Garner.
The disc also contains two trailers for DodgeBall, as well as a teaser trailer for the upcoming Johnny Knoxville/Farrelly Brothers movie The Ringer and a trailer for the Golden Globe winning TV series Arrested Development.
films seem to be easily stackable in two simple piles. In one you’ll find Zoolander and Starsky and Hutch, in the other, Meet the Parents and Along Came Polly. You can watch one pile over and over again, the other, you’ll watch, sometimes not even making it to the end. Which is which seems to be a matter of taste, personally I could watch Zoolander every day of the week, and – although I enjoyed it – I have no compunction to watch Meet the Parents ever again. DodgeBall will be sitting happily in the pile with Starsky and Hutch and Zoolander, close enough to the TV to be found in any late night drunken entertainment emergency. However, as far as the DVD goes, even though this R1 disc is rather good, the R2 is even better. All the Easter eggs are there, and more, although you’ll have to hunt them out in a different way, and there’s also another commentary track, as well as presenting an uncut version of the film. Now the cuts only amount to two alternate lines, and the commentary is – by Fox’s own admission – a joke, but it is still a more complete set. Those that have taken advantage of the earlier US release date shouldn’t feel the need to trade up, but if you’re yet to pick this one up it looks like the R2 is the one to go for.