In 2004, "Dodgeball" surprised just about everyone, taking in no less than $114 million dollars. While I've warmed up to the film in the few years since its release, I think it's still a mildly uneven comedy with some gags that just don't connect. While I understand that many may have fond (or not so fond) memories of the sport of the title from their school days, after a strong opening weekend, "Dodgeball" just kept bouncing along.
The film stars Vince Vaughn as Peter LaFleur, the owner of a run down gym that has attracted a loyal following of neighborhood folks. LaFleur treats everyone with respect, and doesn't even collect dues half the time. However, he finds out that things may go down the tubes when he gets into tax trouble, with his gym potentially being taken from him. Itching to step in and snatch it is White Goodman (Ben Stiller), a formerly fat fitness guru who runs the ultra high-tech gym across the street - he sees LaFleur's gym as a potential parking lot.
One of LaFleur's friends from the gym (Stephen Root) suggests that they form a dodgeball team and go for the championship in Vegas - the $50,000 prize being enough to pay off the tax issue on the gym. With a little help from an accountant hired by White (Christine Taylor), the team tries for the win, but White has also put together a team of his own.
"Dodgeball" gets some laughs from a few of its bits and from Vaughn, whose somewhat cynical, low-key delivery makes some of the decent lines of dialogue into genuine laughs. On the other hand, this has to be one of my least favorite performances from Ben Stiller, who goes over-the-top and then some in an irritating effort. Had this performance been reeled in to somewhere around the level of actor's "Zoolander", it had the chance to be at least moderately funny. Supporting efforts from Stephen Root, Justin Long (as members of LaFleur's gym) and Rip Torn (as a famous dodgeball coach who helps LaFleur's team) are enjoyable.
While it's understandable that a movie like this isn't going to have a particularly deep story, "Dodgeball" feels like an extended sketch - and one that proceeds exactly how most expect it will. The film's predictability results in little tension during the string of matches that are shown, as well. There are moments where the film could have explored society's relationship with food and fitness more, but it really chooses to keep things moving on the dodgeball story instead. The film's key bit - people getting hit with rubber balls - is funny a few times, but obviously, the film goes back to the well with that one quite often.
"Dodgeball" does manage scattered laughs (an old dodgeball instructional video starring Hank Azaria is hilarious) and the performances are fine, but the jokes don't always work and the film tries to coast on a story that's a little thin for the running time.
VIDEO: "Dodgeball" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 (1080p). While the film isn't too terribly remarkable visually, the Blu-Ray presentation of the colorful film provides a very nice upgrade over the prior DVD edition. Sharpness and detail are not awe-inspiring, but the picture remains quite well-defined and looks more than a few steps crisper and smoother than the DVD.
While some minor noise and the occasional tiny print flaw were spotted, no edge enhancement or other concerns were seen during the film. Overall, despite a few minor issues, the overall impression was a fresh, clean looking film. The bright color palette also had a nice kick, appearing vibrant and well-saturated throughout the show.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS HD-MA 5.1. The audio generally delivers what one might expect from a sports comedy like this. The majority of the scenes are dialogue-driven and, as such, the audio is mainly rooted in the front speakers. Some of the scenes, such as the matches, do bring in the surrounds a tad more for sound effects, ambience and some musical reinforcement, but the rear speakers never are called on to do a whole lot. Audio quality seemed perfectly fine, as dialogue and sound effects seemed clear and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: The main supplement is an audio commentary from director Rawson Marshall Thurber, actor Ben Stiller and actor Vince Vaughn. The commentary is a low-key, funny affair as the three sit back and chat about the picture. There's some decent information about the production, as we learn about some changes made and about some of the location shooting, but a lot of the discussion has the three talking about their feelings regarding the final film. An enjoyable track.
7 deleted sequences appear with optional commentary from director Rawson Marshall Thurber. The scenes are mainly extensions cut for pacing reasons. While there's some nice, funny character moments here, these sequences didn't need to be in the picture. The original ending to the movie (which also has audio commentary from the director) is definitely a bit of a downer, but kind of funny in the abrupt way it closes the picture.
There are also a few very brief featurettes: "Dodgeball Boot Camp: Training For Dodgeball", "The Anatomy of a Hit", "Justin Long: A Study in Ham & Cheese" and "Dodgeball: Go for the Gold".
Final Thoughts: "Dodgeball" scores some good laughs at times, but there are patches of the film where the humor misses, either going too over-the-top or becoming repetitive. The Blu-Ray presentation offers mildly improved video quality and slightly better audio, as well as the same extras as the DVD.
The Film B-