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The Independent Critic

Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn
Rawson Marshall Thurber
Rated PG-13
92 Mins.
20th Century Fox
 "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" Review 
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There is a desperately funny film here trying to find its way to the surface. It doesn't quite make it. First, however, I must confess that I enjoyed this film a bit more than the B- rating that I give it. I did laugh at several points during the film, and definitely consider this film a decent way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Yes, I'll admit it. I saw this film on opening day, however, that was primarily because I was ready to see a film and "The Terminal" didn't have a showing for over another hour. Ah yes, the things one will do to get the matinee price.

Of course, we have another Ben Stiller comedy this year...thankfully, it's a slight alteration from his far too common "poor shmuck you can't help but root for" character. Oddly enough, as much as I loved the change of pace it's also one of the challenges of the film. Stiller has so often portrayed the "poor shmuck" that it seemed awfully weird to have him portray, in essence, the bad guy here...and, to top it off, Vince Vaughn plays the good guy. Now, I'm sure that Vaughn is a nice enough guy and he's played nice characters before...but, his look, his attitude, his presence sort of radiates the "tough guy" thing. I had a hard time letting go of that enough to buy into him being the "victim" here...Vaughn's performance didn't really help matters much as he gives a competent, but far from energetic performance here. Having seen Stiller pull off wonderful "buddy" flicks, it was hard to not be disappointed with the teaming here. Stiller, on the other hand, clearly relishes the change of pace and creates a character that you just love to hate. His voice, body language and presence are funny just to watch.

In supporting roles, you have Stiller's wife Christine Taylor...she does a nice job here, and gets to beat up on her hubby a bit. Stephen Root, who was so brilliant as Milton in "Office Space," creates another adorable loser here...kudos also to Missi Pyle, Jamal Duff and Chris Williams. Gary Cole, also seen in "Office Space", mostly has a throw away role here as the announcer for the Dodge Ball Championships and Jason Bateman co-anchors with mostly a bland energy. A brief appearance by Hank Azaria has some charm, along with cameos by Lance Armstrong and Chuck Norris. Perhaps the highlight of the film is actually a supporting performance by Rip Torn as wheelchair-bound Patches O'Houlihan, who seems to get the majority of the scripts witty jokes and offbeat quirks. Torn has a field day with the role, and doesn't get nearly enough screen time.

The film is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber...and I agree with the idea that he seemed to think he could take the flavor of BASEketball, add a "real" sport and make a better film. Admittedly, there's lots of potential but it just doesn't work up to its potential.

There are, however, some nice moments here and the supporting actors keep this film moving at a nice pace. It's tremendously silly, occasionally sweet but generally nonsensical. In other words, it's another Ben Stiller comedy BUT it's probably his best one this year so fans of Stiller and fans of "Baseketball" type humor will probably enjoy this film. I will warn parents that it is a fairly strong PG-13, and I heard more than one person comment it should have been an "R".

Also, stick around for the closing credits...Stiller has a bit at the end that is worth watching. (Think about a slightly eroticized "Fat Bastard").
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic