This past Summer, "Dodgeball" surprised just about everyone, taking in no less than $114 million dollars. After watching the film, I can't really say I understand its success. This isn't a terrible film by any means, but it's extremely limited in story and the humor is pretty uneven. 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 more than a few times.
"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 story is even a little thinner than one might expect.
VIDEO: "Dodgeball" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality wasn't without a few minor concerns, but for the most part, the transfer offered very fine image quality. Sharpness and detail were fine for the majority of the film - a few shots here-and-there looked a tiny bit soft, but most offered a fine level of definition.
The picture did show a little bit of edge enhancement at times, but that was really the only concern I noticed. The print appeared to be in excellent condition, with no instances of specks, marks, dirt or other wear. The image was also free of pixelation or other problems. Colors remained bright and vivid, with fine saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Dodgeball" is presented in Dolby Digital 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". We also get two trailers for "Dodgeball" and promos for "The Ringer" and "Arrested Development". Finally, there's a blooper reel and, for computer DVD-ROM users, the screenplay.
Final Thoughts: "Dodgeball" hits some decent jokes at times, but there are patches where the humor misses. I find it to be pretty much the definition of a "rental". Fox's DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a few good supplements. Rent it.