> Volume 6 > Number 24


Rawson Marshall Thurber

Vince Vaughan
Christine Taylor
Ben Stiller
Rip Torn
Justin Long
Stephen Root
Joel David Moore
Chris Williams
Alan Tudyk

Release: 18 Jun. 04

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story


In Ben Stiller’s fourth comedy this year, the actor finally gets back into his best form. Stiller’s nebbish everyman of Along Came Polly and Envy has long lost his humorousness -- I think it was with the closing credits of There’s Something About Mary when he should have understood that the character had been successfully exploited. Instead, he’s best when playing out-of-control stereotypes of caricatures, as was the case in Starsky & Hutch. Here, as the pompous owner of Globo-Gym, he’s at his comic best. Never has Stiller been so unlikable, which is probably the best form he can portray.

But outside of the Stiller-strong dodgeball competitions that fill much of the film’s latter two thirds, the first act of Dodgeball: A True Underdog’s Story is nearly laughless. Nominally starring a tired Vince Vaughan, the film’s main draw are the absurd mêlées it lays out, from the insipid color commentary by Gary Cole and Jason Bateman to the genius cameos of David Hasselhoff and Chuck Norris, this is a self-mocking sports film that actually succeeds in betting the audience excited about the gameplay. Looking beyond the inept subplots (including a useless Christine Taylor and man who thinks he’s a pirate), there’s a joyous atmosphere created by writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber, and the mostly unknown cast (plus a few recognizable faces like Rip Torn and Steven Root) seems perfectly willing to take part in the idiocy. Stiller, left to the side during much of its team-pumping speeches, is the heart of the film -- his willingness to downplay his star status for a cluster of embarrassing laughs is truly admirable. Regardless of how many films he does in a year, he’s still the hardest working comedian in Hollywood whenever he tries to be. No matter how spotty the film might be without him, it can be said that Dodgeball: A True Underdog’s Story is the best Ben Stiller film this year

©2004, David Perry,, 11 June 2004