Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story DVD Review

Those red rubber balls hurt. Just about all of us have suffered a cruel fate at their hands at some point in out lives. "Dodgeball" takes a look at this very painful situation for exactly what it is: funny. That's assuming of course you're the thrower and not the victim.

Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) runs a small gym called Average Joe's. His financial system is less than stellar and a new corporate health spa run by White Goodman (Ben Stiller) is cutting into his business. Forced with a mortgage of $50,000, Peter and his rag tag crew of gym buddies must enter a dodgeball tournament to win the money or they'll lose the building they love so much.

There is hardly a moment in this movie where you won't laugh. The basic rules of the sport are laid out in gut-busting fashion, but that's just one small segment. This film is a riot, a priceless parody of sports and sports movies.

Ben Stiller leads the way as the over-the-top owner of Globo Gym. His role is played with completely ridiculous mannerisms, but for whatever reason, you can buy into it as a perfect parody. Vaughn plays the role straight, sort of taking a sideline approach and giving oddball looks towards his advisory while trying to win over super-hot Christine Taylor.

The rest of the cast compliments the two males leads just fine, with Rip Torn almost taking over at times with insane one-liners as a retired star player. Cameos are many from William Shatner, Lance Armstrong, and Chuck Norris. Stephen Root also takes another perfect role for himself, probably his best comedic role since "Office Space." The "ESPN 8" commentators make for some priceless stuff too, including another "Office Space" veteran, Gary Cole.

Though the script is really just about great comedy, it obviously cares little for the story; but that's ok. It's a parody. It just takes what other movies have done and rips them inside out. There are some great moments that take a stab at real pro sports as well. There is a great mix of smart, witty written laughs, but the best moments are almost all physical. Rip Torn's training regiment makes for some of the funniest moments this film has to offer.

>From the various trailers, you couldn't possibly imagine just how funny this film truly is. People being hit with various foreign objects just never get old and writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber knows it. It's a real shame a movie like this won't get nominated for any major awards, but it should be. There hasn't been a movie all year that has contained this many laughs. (***** out of *****)

Fox has done a fantastic job with this disc overall, starting with the transfer. Barring some light grain and occasionally noticeable edge enhancement, this is a nearly perfect presentation. This is a film relying on strong (maybe even extreme) color and combining that with solid black levels, it creates great contrast that enhances everything. Flesh tones are dead on and compression hardly ever shows up even under close scrutiny. (****)

Most of the film is front loaded in the center channel until is has a chance to work all 5 channels. Once the big tournament begins, the crowd gets into the action, filling the sound field in effective fashion. Each ball blasts the players' faces in brutal fashion, and you'll feel every hit. It's not very aggressive, but this is a solid mix that brings the movie alive. (****)

Extras are not packed onto the disc, but what's here is at times funnier than the movie. First is an inside look at a new Fox movie, "Electra." Moving into the film, you can listen to a commentary from the director, Vaughn, and Stiller. Eight deleted scenes are included, and for the most part, these are smart deletions. A few probably could have stayed simply because of how funny they are, but the film does work at a brisk 90-minutes.

An alternate ending is included and it's easy to see how both endings worked. The problem is this one is obviously something people just wouldn't get. If you think about it, it just seems out of place. Nevertheless, the director offers up some commentary (like he does on the other 8 scenes) on how much he liked this one and how he fought to keep it.

Four short featurettes provide some insight into how the film came together, but most of these are here to entertain. "Training for Dodgeball" looks at how the actors prepared for filming in, well, a painful manner. "Anatomy of a Hit" shows just why a person being hit in the testicles is funny and how to make it so on film. "Justin Long: A Study of Ham and Cheese" is an odd little piece that shows the young actor being absolutely assaulted by dodgeballs and a short deleted scene. Finally, "Dodgeball: Go For Gold" has Stiller and Vaughn explaining why this game should be an Olympic sport.

Outtakes are completely uncensored, a real rarity. Usually these are trimmed to within the limits of the movie's rating. Not here. There are some great moments here and it's well worth watching. Finally, some trailers finish the disc off. (****)

This is a movie that should already solidify itself as one of the top sports comedies of all time. Unlike, say, "Major League," Thurber allows for no downtime and the romance is just as funny as the rest of the film. Give it a shot even if you think you might not like it. You'll be pleasantly surprised.


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