Movies That Should Have Been Worse: Dodgeball
I love Ben Stiller. The man is funny and his is a kind of funny that hits me square in the gut. The Ben Stiller Show was hilarious. Zoolander was very funny. Mystery Men--no matter what anyone tells you--is wonderfully entertaining. He was excellent in The Royal Tenenbaums, as well, even managing some more dramatic moments. He also has put out his fair share of mediocrity, though. Along Came Polly, for instance, was a decent movie but wasn't anything amazing and Meet the Fockers sounds like trash, though I'll admit I haven't seen it.
Dodgeball, though, looked bad. When I saw the trailer, I winced. Oh, did it look bad. I remember seeing part of a special on Comedy Central, I believe it was, in which the movie was treated very seriously. It was a big joke, of course, but Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn were on there talking about how they really wanted to treat the sport of dodgeball with the respect it deserved and how they wanted to create a resurgence in the sport. I remember finding that amusing, but I still would not go see Dodgeball. It looked really bad.
Then I watched it when it came out on DVD. It was one of those movies that I put in my Netflix queue, not necessarily expecting much but willing to give it a shot. The funny thing is, the movie turned out to be damn entertaining. It came out of nowhere and I did not expect it to be nearly as good as it was. In fact, based on the subject and the trailer, the movie had absolutely no right to be as good as it was. It should have been a stupid, mediocre comedy at best and yet it turned out to be a stupid, hilarious comedy.
I think I made a mistake in underestimating Ben Stiller, as well as Vince Vaughn. Vince Vaughn can make damn near anything funny, so far as I'm concerned. If he has even somewhat decent material to work with--material that suits him, that is--then he can hit it out of the park. There's a sarcasm and smarminess to him that just comes naturally and it really is quite amusing. It's fun to watch on camera. And he nails it in Dodgeball, although he really is playing the good guy here. But that smarminess still comes through, particularly in his early treatment of Kate, played by Christine Taylor. It's funny and it's also slightly endearing once he softens up a bit.
Meanwhile, Ben Stiller is just acting ridiculous, which he is good at. In fact, you'll notice that some of his best movies involve him being completely silly rather than playing the straight man. He can do the straight man, but I'll always consider him at his best when he is let loose and allowed to go nuts. That's really when he shines and he jumps headfirst into absurdity in Dodgeball.
Just as important as the two leads are both Christine Taylor--who works great as the straight man who gets in a few good jokes of her own--and the rest of Vince Vaughn's dodgeball team, which is simply the misfits who are members of his gym. They all hit their cues and Alan Tudyk--a favorite of mine from Firefly--is particularly funny as a man who thinks he's a pirate.
The movie kicks into high gear toward the end, when they hit the big national tournament. You have the announcing duo, with Jason Bateman being particularly great. David Hasselhoff as a German coach. A disillusioned pirate. "Go Balls Deep," which is one of the best visual gags I've seen in a long time and still leaves me laughing. It's all completely ridiculous and far, far funnier than it has any right to be. By all intents and purposes, this movie should have been just passable. Instead, it managed to be great entertainment. I have no explanation, but I sure do appreciate it.