The truth is, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story ain’t no true underdog story. If it were, Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) and the scrum of losers who hang out at Average Joe’s Gym would never beat the pumped-up Globo Gym clones assembled by fitness magnate White Goodman (Ben Stiller) in a Las Vegas dodgeball showdown. (For pathos, the $50,000 winner’s pot is just enough to save Average Joe’s from foreclosure.)
The truth is, this slap-happy send-up of the whole sniffly underdog sports-movie genre, written and directed with a change-up pitch of whizzy aggression and bouncy merriness by Rawson Marshall Thurber, is hilariously fake and rude. And thus true and tonic, if you know what I mean. Stiller once again plays a preening SOB, but there is something in the chemistry of his crazy-eyed vanity (set off by a feathered coif and an artificially inflated codpiece) in combustion with Vaughn’s lower-keyed, underachiever sanity that at once aerates and focuses Stiller’s pugnacity. For added combustibility, Rip Torn plays a sewer-mouthed retired dodgeball legend who returns, in a wheelchair, to coach the Average Joes into glory. Direct hit!