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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: Unrated

If you're going to own a gym, perhaps "Average Joe's" isn't the best name to hang above the door. But nobody ever accused Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) of being a stellar businessman. Barely eking out an existence across the street from mega-fitness-center Globo-Gym, owned by White Goodman (Ben Stiller), Peter gets by on a small group of eccentric clientele, most of whom never pay their fees. But when bank examiner Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) informs Peter that he's about to bust his mortgage, the gang at Average Joe's quickly realizes they're in a deeper hole than they thought — they need to scrape up $50,000 in just one month, or else the bank will sell the property to Globo-Gym, and White Goodman needs more parking. It seems there's little to do but accept defeat, at least until out-of-shape gym rat and obscure-sports fan Gordon (Stephen Root) suggests they enter a six-man team into the annual American Dodgeball Association of America tournament in Las Vegas. A quick trip through a qualifying round sends the 'ballers to Sin City, but not before White learns of their plan — and puts together his own dodgeball side to put Average Joe's out of business forever. Cueing up Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story on the DVD player is like a pleasant visit with old friends. By this point, the loose collective of film comedians who have fueled such hits as Old School, Starsky & Hutch, and Zoolander have earned so much goodwill from their fans that they can do just about anything and get away with it, as long as they don't run over budget and the cheap laughs are served up minute-by-minute. Dodgeball may be regarded as a lesser entry, but not by much — particularly with Ben Stiller's White Goodman caricature, a study in short-man machismo with such sharp edges that every two-bit fan will want to devise their own impression of him. Stiller's more than capable of handling dramatic roles, but he seems never more secure than when he loses himself in a part, and White is his ideal Freudian Id, with fluffy, feathered hair, a Harley-ridin' 'stache, and a stare-down so intense one can only imagine he watched Purple Rain numerous times for research purposes. With Stiller playing the heavy, the rest of the cast is free to be as light and likable as they please, and the ensemble — headed by a nonchalant Vince Vaughn — includes the always-reliable Stephen Root, a hilarious Rip Torn as wheelchair-bound coach Patches O'Houlihan, Christine Taylor as an accountant with a wicked fastball, Alan Tudyk as a gym denizen who thinks he's a pirate, and Missi Pyle as an Eastern European dodgeball champion. Gary Cole and Jason Bateman handle the play-by-play at the tournament, and the cameo list is deep — watch for Hank Azaria, Lance Armstrong, William Shatner, Chuck Norris, and David Hasselhoff. You may not lose your beer during this harmless 90 minutes of schoolyard fun, but folks will be amused enough to ensure that Dodgeball has a long, long life on DVD and late-night cable. Fox's second DVD release of the title is billed as an "Unrated" edition, although the run-time matches the theatrical version's 92 minutes. Returning from the original disc are the commentary by writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber and stars Stiller and Vaughn, four short featurettes ("Dodgeball Camp: Training for Dodgeball," "The Anatomy of a Hit," "Justin Long: Ham and Cheese," and "Dodgeball: Go for the Gold"), an alternate ending, a gag reel (3 min.), a trailer gallery, and the screenplay as DVD-ROM content. The only updates this time around include two new deleted scenes (making nine total) and extended footage of the raunchy Dodgeball Dancers. Keep-case.
—JJB



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