Written by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Stephen Root
Putting in the effort to succeed is half the battle because apathy will never get the job done. Something the slouch we follow in Dodge: A True Underdog Story begins to learn when his lack of care for anything finally catches up to him. By using a game almost everyone has played in physical education and a series of truly absurd decisions, this film fully absorbs its wackiness to create such an entertaining experience.
On the verge of losing his gymnasium from not making payments, Pete LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) is running out of options. His friends and regulars suggest they enter into a dodgeball tournament, which has the exact amount in prize money needed to pay off the balance to keep the gym running. Their plan has hope until learning the leader of their rival gym, White Goodman (Ben Stiller) has also entered a team into the tournament and plans to spoil this comeback.
Opening up with White Goodman running a demeaning and cheesy commercial for his major gymnasium, Globo Gym, the film prepares the audience for what will be a truly ridiculous story. He does not say the typical inspiring language used to sell people memberships about changing their life for the good. No, he straight up expresses his unfiltered thoughts that signing up for this gym will help the patrons stop being fat and ugly even going to the point where he states those issues are all genetic. The amount of fallacies demonstrates early on the type of antagonist we have in store for us. It then pans over to Pete, waking up from his couch to head over to the gym he owns listening to voicemails about how his water will be turned off after not paying his bill for eight months, which also begins the understanding of what true apathy looks like.
Now, people can choose to have lazy days and let some things slip by the wayside but the sheer apathy Pete displays in this feature is startling. When he learns about him having to come up with a sum of $50,000 to restore his mortgage on the gymnasium, Kate Veach (Christine Taylor), the banker on the account finds some unsettling facts about the financial hole Pete has found himself in. It comes down completely to his own lack of care. One of the most glaring being him not collecting any membership payments from his patrons in 13 months, which just becomes confusing because there’s no other source of income this man has proven to be bringing in and he refuses to take anything on. It goes by his motto of failure not being so bad as long as you do not try. As a financially literate person myself, it made me want to bang my head against the wall, but he needs to grow somehow. This dodgeball tournament gives him the opportunity for a second chance, which gets to the true fun this film has.
Dodgeball contains so many quotable lines, which allows the unsavory aspects to get ignored with White Goodman by far being the MVP. The combination of insecurity and arrogance he embodies allows for some wildly hilarious moments he provides. He does it all with a smile on his face and it shows Ben Stiller in the best role he’s ever done. The different quotes he provides are a gold mine and the team he assembles to take on Pete’s squad in dodgeball is not messing around.
As the tournament ensues, more gets learned about the crew of misfits along for the ride with Pete. There’s the high school dweeb (Justin Long), a goofy man with a mail-order wife (Stephen Root), a man convinced he’s a pirate (Alan Tudyk), a lonely guy looking for love (Joel David Moore), a friend (Chris Williams). None of them have life completely figured out but they figure things can turn around if they win this tournament. Each of them has their moment to shine in the story to overcome the issues they have in life, which offers proper closure.
The actual dodgeball sequences have such good production value and make it look as coordinated and exciting as the NFL playoffs. From the promotions to the team identities formed, the film certainly has plenty of fun in constructing the different groups Pete and White need to go through to meet in the final. Several moments have so much intensity because of the stakes involved and what a loss for Average Joe’s would mean. Never has the sport of dodgeball been so exhilarating to watch.
Average Joe’s takes on Globo Gym, which becomes a clash between Pete and White Goodman on the biggest stage of ESPN the Ocho. Nothing about the films asks for it to be taken seriously, as it gets into the rules of dodgeball and the antiquated methods of training. Some aspects certainly do not age well, especially with a cameo from a now-disgraced athlete, but the story has plenty of fun with the obscurity of the sport and how this group of proverbial losers get their lives together through a game children play. So many memorable moments of note to appreciate and a movie allowing Ben Stiller to shine at his brightest, Dodgeball proves to have the goods.