What makes a good comedy movie? Is it witty writing, a penchant for self-awareness or pop culture references? Could it be memorable characters that inspire viewers to constantly quote them even years later? Either way, my favorite comedy movie ever, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” features all these traits and more.
In case you’ve somehow been living under a rock and have never heard of this sports underdog story meets absurd comedy, “Dodgeball” is a about a ragtag group of gym members called the “Average Joes” and their quest to raise $50,000 in 30 days to cover their gym’s mortgage. Take a wild guess at what they realize is their best option.
Led by total slacker but also weirdly charming Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn), the Joes are filled with, well, people that aren’t exactly average. The team includes a hopeless romantic Justin Redman (Justin Long), an insecure and nerdy middle-aged Gordon Pibb (Stephen Root) who suffers from a loveless marriage with a Russian mail-order bridge and a guy who literally thinks he’s a pirate (Alan Tudyk). Not to mention: a hardass, bizarre and senile coach in Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn), who reveals the five D’s of dodgeball: “Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and...Dodge.”
The real star of the movie is its villain: White Goodman (Ben Stiller), who steals every scene as the pompous, megalomaniac head of the Average Joes’ rival and infinitely more successful franchise, Globo Gym. Has there ever been a more quotable character in a comedy movie? From “Ball me, Blazer” to “Be prepared to be humiliated on cable television,” Goodman provides a constant supply of gold mines in dialogue.
Through Goodman, “Dodgeball” also successfully and not-so-subtly satirizes aspects of hypermasculinity within the fitness and sports industry. We don’t only laugh at Goodmanbecause he’s a jerk - we do it because we recognize the same kind of try-hard, condescending and shallow negativity from people like him in our lives. On the other hand, the oddball honesty of the Joes is weirdly relatable and easy to root for.
Even the side characters of “Dodgeball” are hilarious and believable in their limited scenes. For example, take a cameo from David Hasselhoff as the coach of a German dodgeball team, or even Chuck Norris’ totally random, but still immortal appearance as a judge in the final dodgeball championship game. Perhaps the most underrated character of the movie is Pepper Brooks (Jason Bateman), an airheaded and aloof broadcast analyst who frequently interjects his co-commentator by either stating the obvious or saying complete nonsense.
“Dodgeball” still suffers from problems that other movies of its era have. The references towards being gay or just homoeroticism in general are sometimes eye roll-worthy. Moreover, the film’s sense of humor is also clearly oriented towards guys, which can make the film’s satirization of masculinity feel a bit lost within the bevy of penis jokes, although I still laugh at a few of them. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a comedy film to watch with a group of friends, I’d still recommend the hell out of “Dodgeball.”