Crude, daft and hilarious, DodgeBall is the best mainstream American comedy in years. With his easy charm and charisma, Vince Vaughn stars as Peter La Fleur, the owner of Average Joe's Gym, a ramshackle, outfit in danger of being taken over by the pumped-up, corporate Globo Gym - run by the pumped-up, idiotic White Goodman (Ben Stiller, wearing a moustache the size of a badger). Desperate to raise $50,000, Peter and his team of no-hopers enter a tournament for Dodgeball - an obscure sport which involves, er, dodging balls...
This film is better than it has any right to be. With the full title of DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, it sounds like an unfortunate sequel to an animals-as-heroes picture such as Airbud. It's made by a first-time writer-director called Rawson Marshall Thurber (who had to be funny to survive school with a name like that). And it stars Stiller, whose comic skills were wearing seriously thin with Starsky & Hutch.
"THE SLAPSTICK IS IMPECCABLY TIMED"
And yet Stiller is seriously funny here, as a vulgar, vain, body fascist who inflates his jockstrap before a meeting with a beautiful banker (Stiller's real-life wife Christine Taylor) and suggests, "We should mate." This may be lewd, but DodgeBall generally avoids gross out humour, while Stiller's OTT comic caricature is balanced by Vaughn's understated everyman. The Swingers star is happy to be still, allowing co-stars to grab at gags while his deadpan presence pinches the picture.
Rip Torn is excellent too, as the Dodgeball veteran and trainer who believes, in perhaps the film's funniest sequence, "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." The slapstick is impeccably timed - Jeepers Creepers' Justin Long is an expert at making falling down funny - and with its well-placed profanity and ear for an insult, the dialogue recalls the superb, underseen Paul Newman 70s sports comedy Slapshot. DodgeBall may lack that movie's emotional undertow, but it's definitely worth a throw.