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Movie Reviews:

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Back at the Keyboard Again
Well, I've been away from the blog for a while.  This is owing to a few emotional crises, the details of which I'll refrain from getting into here for the sake of my loyal readership.  I'm hoping that this will prove to be the last week-long blogging-break of the season, and to get my break-break off on the right foot, I've decided to review the movie I saw on Thursday.
Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge.   

At some point during the post-script, pre-production stage, a number of producers were sitting around a table discussing the success potential possessed by this movie.  I think the conversation went something like this:
Producer 1:  "An excellent script."
Producer 2:  "I'm in total agreement, master.  Perfect in every way."
Producer 3:  "We're definitely in need of a decent comedy this summer."
Producer 1:  "What about White Chicks?"
Producer 3:  "I said decent comedy, not Crime Against Film-making."
Producer 2:  "That's just what I was about to say, my dark lord."
Producer 3:  "And yet, this movie is somehow missing something..."
Producer 1:  "What do you mean?"
Producer 3:  "Well, the jokes work alright...  But there's an element of zaniness missing here."
Producer 2:  "As you say, master...  It needs zaniness."
Producer 1:  "How can a movie with Ben Stiller possibly be any more zany?"
Producer 3:  "I'm sure we can find a way.  We need something wacky, but popular."
Producer 2:  "Pirates of the Carribean was popular."
Producer 1:  "Don't be ridiculous!  What do you want us to do, put a pirate into this movie somehow?"
Producer 2:  "Of course not...  Please forgive me, my dark lord..."
Producer 3:  "Actually, I think he might be on to something..."
And so, they added Steve the Pirate, played by Alan Tudyk.  And the character really did add that element that the movie needed.
Now, this movie isn't going to be for everyone.  In fact, even for those people who might enjoy this movie, they'd have to be in the right mood.  It is, without a doubt, a stupid movie.
Yet, it's not a dumb movie.  And there's a huge difference between the two.
No, I'm not being deliberately confusing.
There are certain types of movies -- stupid movies -- that I'll watch and enjoy thoroughly despite, perhaps even because of, their stupidity.  In fact, I'll do so without guilt or shame.  This includes movies like Night at the Roxbury, Airplane!, and Zoolander.  Meanwhile, there are other movies I'll enjoy but feel guilt and/or shame as a result, like Dude, Where's My Car.  Lastly, there are certain movies that are so incredibly stupid they pass into the realm of dumb and are no longer funny.  This would include the Scary Movie franchise and Robin Hood: Men In Tights.
Dodgeball fits in somewhere between Zoolander and Dude, Where's My Car.  It's stupid, but it's not dumb.
Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), owner and proprietor of Average Joe's gym, is threatened by closure due to defaulting on his mortgage. Meanwhile, his nemesis, White Goodman (Ben Stiller), is posed to buy out the gym in order to expand his evil empire, Globo Gym.  To raise the requisite $50,000 to recover the mortgage in thirty days, La Fleur and his motley crew enter a Dodgeball tournament.  However, Goodman (who's long hated La Fleur) catches on to the plan and decides to enter the tournament as well, with the intention of preventing the unlikely survival of Average Joe's Gym.  Hilarity ensues.
There are, of course, all the low-brow "balls" jokes that one would expect.  In fact, there's a heaping helping of low-brow humour all over the movie, as one might expect.  The wit certainly isn't up to the caliber of, say, L.A. Story.  What is surprising, however, is everything the movie does right.
It doesn't take itself seriously.  In fact, it doesn't even take its jokes seriously.  The movie knows exactly what it is -- a sports movie parody -- and plays with the genre tropes for all that it's worth.  When an ironically tragic event strikes the hapless heroes, the movie is kind enough to point that out.  When the convenient Deux Ex Machina rears its head near the end, it comes conveniently labelled.  And just when you're on the verge of getting sick of all the peurile penile jokes, suddenly the bad guys make a joke about "King Midas's Silver."
Plus, in how many other movies can you hear the soon-to-be-immortal line, "Thank you, Chuck Norris!"
Overall, the mix works.  Sure, you can't go into this comedy looking to be touched (try the above-mentioned L.A. Story if that's what you're looking for), but you'll probably laugh pretty hard despite yourself.  And it's just literate enough, and aware enough, that it's enjoyable even if the conveniently-timed all-girl bikini car wash doesn't appeal to you.
Unfortunately, the ending, at least as regards the romantic sub-plot, could have been a lot better.  At first, they make you think they're going to throw you for a loop and defy the genre formula (to great comic effect), but then they chicken out at the last minute.  At first, I was impressed.  Then, I just groaned and grew highly disappointed at the last-minute reverse-reversal.
So, how do I rate this movie?  Well, the lamer-ending-than-necessary hurts the rating, reducing the total by half a Cute White Rat.  Then again, it also has Steve the Pirate.  Plus half a Cute White Rat.  It's not a great work of art, so that prevents it from getting a really high rating.  Then again, it's not a piece of crap.
Overall, I give Dodgeball exactly 3 Cute White Rats -- the middle road.  It's worth a viewing if you're in the right mood, and in such a mood it's enjoyable, but it's probably not the best comedy you'll see this year.
3 CWRs

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 3:36 a.m.


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