A True Underdog Story
This 2004 comedy, written and directed by newcomer Rawson Marshall Thurber, is about two gym owners and the dodgeball game that decides their fates.
The improbably named White Goodman (Ben Stiller) is the owner of the fabulously successful chain, Globo Gym ("We're better than you and we know it" is their motto); he is a sleazy preener with a buff body and a skin-tight body suit. Across the street from one of his gyms sits the shabby Average Joe's, owned by Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), a friendly shlub who doesn't have a business bone in his body.
La Fleur finds himself threatened with foreclosure of his mortgage after ignoring repeated warning letters; he can only save his business by coming up with $50,000 fast. He's ready to give up, but his posse of misfit customers hatch a plan: they're going to go to Las Vegas and win the dodgeball tournament run by the ADAA (American Dodgeball Association of America), getting the prize money, which is exactly $50,000!! But White, who's itching to buy out Average Joe's and add it to his empire, gets wind of the scheme and puts together a team of his own, determined to take the prize.
There's lots of jokes, some funny, some less so, and plenty of physical gags; thankfully, the potty humour is kept to a minimum. The actual tournament scenes are quite realistic - and will make you relive your high school days with joy or dread, depending on how it was for you then.
But the best part is Stiller, who will do anything for a laugh at his own expense. He sits in his office with electrodes clamped to his nipples, giving himself shocks to train himself to avoid junk food. He inflates his crotch to bulging heights before meeting Kate (Christine Taylor, Stiller's real-life wife), the pretty banker who's handling both gyms' business. He hits on Kate repeatedly, not being put off when the very thought makes her gag ("Some cultures eat only vomit" he chirps obliviously; "I read it in a book!") When he goes to her house to try to win her over, he wears a white leather leisure suit that compliments his feathered hair and fu manchu moustache perfectly.
Matching the manic Stiller for heights of absurdity is the crazed former dodgeball champ Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn) who shows up to train the clueless team from Average Joe's. His bag of tricks includes wrenches, which he throws at the hapless newbies (because "if you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball") as he teaches them the five D's of dodgeball: dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge. By comparison, Vaughn practically sleepwalks through his role.
Approach this movie for what it is - an unapologetically low-brow comedy that roots for the nerds over the jocks - and you might find it quite fun. I did.
Oh, and keep watching to the end: there's an extra scene you'll miss if you stop watching when the credits begin to roll.