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Dodgeball:
A True Underdog Story

Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Christine Taylor
Written and Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
website: www.dodgeballmovie.com

IN SHORT: It's silly-funny. Dodge that! [Rated PG-13 for rude and sexual humor, and language. 96 minutes]

Let us return to those innocent days when dodgeball was a gentle game of throwing and evading a red rubber ball . . . or let's not and say we did. We'll consider it a cultural variant that, by Grade 10 or so we were calling the game "Kill" and, as a player, doing our best to try and do just that to our opponent. We weren't real good at it, especially after we took a hit to our left eye, but them's the breaks.

Let us say, instead, that every Generation is entitled to its Animal House or Porkys or American Pie and all of the spinoffs and sequels that come with success. The first out of the gate this summer is Dodgeball, which avoids all the gross-out humor and most of the four letter words that we've come to expect but was still funny enough that two rows of twelve year-olds sitting behind us were cackling nonstop. We stopped cackling decades ago. We just laughed a heckuva lot more than we expected to when we dragged ourself down to see the film.

The "let's destroy the competition because it's not only profitable, it's fun" mentality -- is a fine way to describe White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Goodman built the GloboGym Empire from the ground up . . . actually he hired a lot of people to do it for him but the money was all his (except for the little bit which wasn't which was most of it). His competitor next door, Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) runs the Average Joe Gym, which White wants to buy because his gym needs a new parking lot. Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) is the bookkeeping tax person hired by Goodman to find a way to speed up foreclosure on the $50,000 mortgage the rich dude holds on the common working man. She's also going to find herself the -- everybody say it with Cranky, all together now -- love interest between the two men, although there's not a lot of competition since Stiller does such an exceptional job of making an ass of his character. That Vaughn manages to keep a straight face during the head to head scenes is a credit to his ability to, uh, keep a straight face.

Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn) is Peter's mentor and a one time DodgeBall champeen in his own right. Other than that, there isn't much to say other than the good vs bad guy, big money vs. little and girl in the middle has been a template for just about every comedy made in the last twenty years. All that counts is the quality and quantity of the jokes that fill the empty spaces and a better than usual parody of our national obsessions with anything that can be turned into a sport.

And, unlike all other comedies, this one manages a big surprise at the end so extra points for that, too. That isn't to say that DodgeBall will live in the hallowed halls of Delta House etc. It's script takes the great step of actually describing the rules of the game in great detail, and then tossing all those rules out the window just to rev up the engines for the big finale. All fine and good and perfect for all those young teens, at least the ones who've had the birds and bees talk. DodgeBall isn't prurient by any means but there is some stuff with sexual overtones that could bother starched collar parents.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to DodgeBall, he would have paid . . .

$4.50

Take the kids. Unlock the inner child. But make all efforts to find a crowded theater because we can't vouch for how funny this is going to be solo (even if you allow yourself herbal aids, which we can't suggest) in front of a TV screen.

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