DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story - Unrated [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Fox
Review written by and copyright: Andy James & Noor Razzak (6th January 2009).
The Film

"Dodgeball" is a film that knows exactly what it is, and takes full advantage of the genre trappings to bring us an hilarious and screwball comedy. Vince Vaughn saunters in as Peter La Fleur, owner and operator of Average Joe’s Gym; a run-down easy-come, easy-go operation. In direct competition is White Goodman (Ben Stiller) and his hyper-intense Globo Gym. Average Joe’s Gym is about to be shut down; but not if the rag-tag group of misfits who call it home have anything to say about it! Before you can say “Dodge!” we’re off to Vegas and the World Dodgeball Championships to save Average Joe’s Gym.

"Dodgeball" is a sports film, based on a template we’ve seen many times before with obvious heroes and villains and a cast of quirky characters/lovable misfits. What distinguishes it from so many similar films ("Champions" (1984), "Cool Runnings" (1993), "The Longest Yard" (1974) et al) is that everyone involved knows this. The title gives you the first clue – it’s a sports film about "Dodgeball", which I’m sure anyone would be hard pressed to call a “real” sport. It is a film that is well aware of the ridiculousness inherent in its plot and plays it well, well over the top. What helps is that the writing is sharp and the gags come thick, fast and strange. The script is tight, with seemingly throwaway comments made in the first act coming back to be paid off in the third. The biggest criticism to be laid here is the seeming excess of characters; surely some of these could have been amalgamated? And despite a fine performance from Alan Tudyk I still don’t see the point of Steve the Pirate.

The best thing to be said about these extraneous characters is they add even more cast members (and supply those actors with a nice paycheck) to an already stand-out cast. We have Ben Stiller doing a variation of his over-muscled brainless twit, Vince Vaughn in laconic good form (despite being the gym owner, he’s the least interested in saving it) and a support cast that includes Stephen Root, Alan Tudyk, Justin Long, Rip Torn and Missi Pyle with Gary Cole, Jason Bateman and Hank Azaria popping in. Whilst most are all doing variations on their usual shtick (particularly Stiller and Vaughn) the performances, and the timing of each, is pitch perfect. It is something of a shame that this is the last film that I cared about Vince Vaughn in – he seems to have taken his laid-back performance here and switched it to his autopilot for all his romantic-comedy/family films. At least Ben Stiller has recently supplied us with "Tropic Thunder" (2008).

Whilst you could argue for and against "Dodgeball" as being a modern comedy classic (how many of those can you name?), it detracts from the enjoyment of it, and it’s madcap, sometimes juvenile, humour surely won’t be for all. This is not a film out to say anything new or important: we’ve all heard the “believe in yourself, just as you are” tried and true trite too many times to mention. It certainly doesn’t redefine the genre. What "Dodgeball" does, and does well, is provide you with some entertainment for a couple of hours. There’s no situation that isn’t exploited for a laugh and with some left-field lines and inspired cameos (David Hasselhoff as the German coach) there’s a good chance you’ll be chuckling. With "Dodgeball" we get the added bonus (these days) that the film is smart and genuinely funny.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is delivered in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered in MPEG-2 compression. The film's image is rather sharp and crisp, detail is excellent with depth showing off the backgrounds including the gym sets and the arena. I was generally happy with the skin tones although they seem a bit waxy at times (which leads me to believe some digital noise reduction was applied), colors are vibrant and bold especially the blacks although there were instances of noise amid dimly lit scenes. Overall it's a pretty good image for a comedy, the picture is clean and looks solid with only a few flaws.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixed at 48kHz/24-bit as well as French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD track, for a comedy there's a lot going on here audio wise, while the dialogue is clean and clear, ambient noise is subtle and present it's the dodgeball scenes that shine with an aggressive mix that immerses the viewer from the actual court-side action, to the crowds and the flashy ESPN graphics the mix uses the sound space well to place you in the middle of it all.
Optional subtitles are included in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean.

Extras

Fox has included an audio commentary a series of deleted/extended scenes, four featurettes, bloopers/gag reel and some additional clips. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is the "Joke" audio commentary by writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber and stars Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. Vaughn talks over the director at any chance he gets in his fast-talking hyper talk, he eats chips and drinks beer and basically is about as annoying as can be, it's supposed to be funny but it's not. Stiller shows up around the 11 minute mark and does the same thing, these guys act self involved and joke around about the film, they constantly check with Matt the sound guy if the recording is audible, the director tries to talk about the film but is always sidetracked by the two cast members. Honestly I gave up on this track before the film finished, it was drawn out and unfunny.

Next up are a series of 10 deleted/extended scenes whcih can be viewed with optional audio commentary by writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber, these scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' feature. The scenes included are:

- "Cardio cowboy" runs for 39 seconds, shows a new cardio class at Globo Gym.
- "Gordon asks for a divorce/White Goodman's metaphor speech" runs for 1 minute 32 seconds, this extended scenes sees Gordon asks his wife for a divorce after he single handedly wining a game, then White tells Michel about the importance of winning.
- "Justin and Amber see Derek before cheerleading finals" runs for 25 seconds, Justin and Amber share a moment before the finals as Doug is wheeled away.
- "The Dirty Sanchez" runs for 1 minute 30 seconds, an extended scenes where the Globo Gym team and the Average Joe's confront each other at the bar.
- "Fran and Owen in bed" runs for 34 seconds, is the aftermath of their furious love making.
- "Kate's porch" runs for 2 minutes 12 seconds, is an extended scene where White tries to get Kate to go out with him.
- "Justin and Amber kiss" runs for 1 minute 23 seconds, in this scene Justin kisses Amber after the cheerleading routine.
- "Shame triangle" runs for 59 seconds, in this extended scene White is sent off to the shame triangle after he hit Kate with the ball on her way out.
- "Three way kiss"runs for 59 seconds, Kate, Peter and Kate's girlfriend Joyce share a three way kiss in this extended scene.
- "Different ending with fat White Goodman (pizza bagels are burning)" runs for 1 minute 40 seconds, is an alternate ending which features additional improv dialogue from stiller.

"Dodgeball Boot Camp: Training For Dodgeball" featurette runs for 3 minutes 27 seconds, this clip takes us into the training camp the cast underwent for the film in this jokey featurette as they talk about the game like it's a rough as guts sport. The clip feature some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the key cast members and the stunt coordinator.

"The Anatomy Of A Hit" featurette runs for 3 minutes 24 seconds, this clip takes a closer look at the physical comedy of the film and how funny it is to see a person get hit in the face with a ball, or the groin. More interviews with key cast and crew lend their opinions and thoughts to getting hit my a dodgeball.

"Justin Long: A Study In Ham & Cheese" featurette runs for 3 minutes 33 seconds, this short clip features the actor improvising lines in a series of scenes. It's more of an outtake reel than a featurette.

"Dodgeball: Go For the Gold" is the final featurette which runs for 1 minute 20 seconds, this final clip was used to promote the film and features more interviews with Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn as they cover the sport, the film, and on how Dodgeball should be an Olympic sport because it's such a universal sport.

Following that is the bloopers/gag reel which runs for 3 minutes 2 seconds, and feature the usual collection of line flubs, laughing in the middle of a take, missed cues and all that stuff, there's some funny moments throughout but overall it's a pretty average reel of actors making mistakes.

"More With The Dodgeball Dancers" are additional clips that include:

- Introduction by writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber which runs for 12 seconds, here the film's director welcomes viewers to this extra.
- "Girls dancing in pink outfit" runs for 46 seconds, features an alternate dance sequences with the girls dressed in pink.
- "Girls dancing in blue outfit" runs for 55 seconds, features an alternate dance sequences with the girls dressed in blue.
- "Girls dancing in black outfit" runs for 33 seconds, features an alternate dance sequences with the girls dressed in black.

Overall

The Film: D Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: C- Overall: C+

 


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