Getting hit in the face with a ball isn’t funny, but watching someone else get hit in the face is. Welcome to “Dodgeball,” a self-aware summer comedy that aims low and hits hard. Surprisingly, “Dodgeball” manages to nail most of its targets, leaving them red-faced and bruised.

Anyone who endured the barbaric grade school sport of “Dodgeball” will understand and appreciate this underdog tale about a small time gym owner looking for salvation from bankruptcy by entering a rag tag team of losers in the National Dodgeball Championships.

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber readily admits he’s skewering underdog sports movies in general, which explains the over-exaggerated obviousness of the characters and their dilemma. What Thurber fails to take into consideration is that underdog sports movies in general are pretty lame, some so bad they actually become parodies of themselves.

Poking fun at these type of films is risky, but Thurber manages to make “Dodgeball” a harmless excuse to waste an hour-and-a-half without feeling too guilty. His characters are as thin as rice paper, which allows the actors to break through and make them their own. Vince Vaughn is hilariously understated as “Average Joe Gym” owner Peter Le Fleur, whose client list includes a small group of misfits who call the decaying building home.

Ben Stiller, with perfectly coifed hair as big as his inflatable cod piece, is exuberantly clueless as White Goodman, a former fatty who now owns the high-tech gym across the street from Average Joe. Intent on turning his competition into a parking structure, Goodman buys out the gym’s second mortgage and calls in the loan. With only thirty days to raise $50,000 or lose their haunt, La Fleur and his members decide to enter and win the National Dodgeball Championships in Las Vegas.

Not if Goodman has anything to do with it, who then recruits his own team of ringers to put La Fleur permanently out of business. Once La Fleur and his team are on the road to success, their wins come fast and furious, taking out one adverse team after another. Thurber wisely whisks through these tournaments because he knows that we know “Dodgeball” doesn’t work unless the underdogs win and make it to Las Vegas.

Thurber also throws every underdog sports movie cliche in the book at the screen. Some work, some don’t, but there are enough laughs to accommodate anyone with an interest in seeing a movie called “Dodgeball.”

Throw Hard, Aim Low

Dodgeball pummels sports movie clich├ęs


Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn, Stephen Root, Justin Long, Joel David Moore, Chris Williams. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Rated PG-13. 91 Minutes.


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