Sometimes, making films with your friends makes for great entertainment. When you can see that a cast genuinely really like each other, they have great banter and can spark off each other, especially in scenes that are clearly improvised, the end product is usually a very entertaining film. We’ve seen this a lot recently, particularly with the films produced by Judd Apatow. The same actors end up in each film and the result is usually very entertaining, though not always hilariously funny or a “classic” comedy.
Dodgeball fits this description perfectly. The same actors end up playing the same sort of roles. Vince Vaughn plays the likable, everyman character, Ben Stiller plays an outrageous, comedic villain and then a host of familiar, if not quite “famous” faces fill the rest of the cast. You can see that this film was improvised scenes strung together with a loose idea of a plot and because the actors seem to be enjoying themselves, it makes for a very entertaining and watchable film.
Vince Vaughen does a good job of being the “ordinary guy” amongst the chaotic characters and situations and he plays this really well. He is supposed to be our eyes when scenes involving men thinking they are pirates or playing dodgeball with wrenches seems all too random. It also means that Ben Stiller can go crazy as the villain, creating an obnoxious but quite funny character in White Goodman. His scenes and some of the things he gets to do or say are some of the funniest parts of the film.
The support the actors have is great too. Rip Torn, in a wheelchair, throwing wrenches at Justin Long is always going to be funny. The hapless Average Joe’s dodgeball team is made up of enough crazy, varied characters, from a pirate to a geeky middle-age man with a Thai Bride who hates him, that there is always a decent joke or funny moment in each scene.
It helps that the sport that the film is revolved around is very funny anyway. A sport where people can potentially get hit in the face or genitals with a big red ball is going to mean easy but frequent laughs and I never got tired of seeing the hits in slow-motion. Change that ball to a wrench and its even funnier. When we actually get to the dodgeball tournament, the film comes into to its own with well observed, sport-related jokes as well as a ridiculous amounts of very cool cameos.
The whole film seems like it was fun and silly to make. That becomes one of the issues though because it’s never brilliant. There are some great, funny moments, usually involving being hit with a dodgeball, but it never gets above a decent, watchable comedy. That’s ok but we’ve seen Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller in better films and it makes me wonder if the laid-back nature of dodgeball, as well as many other “frat-pack” films, couldn’t have been better if they had a bit more planning or writing.
I think we might have our answer with this summer’s film, The Watch, starring both Stiller and Vaughn, as well as Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade. It has great special effects, a cool alien story and could be, in my opinion, a decent replacement for the practically dead Ghostbusters franchise. I just hope it doesn’t become an average film because Stiller and Vaughn would much rather improvise and charm their way through the story.
Overall, Dodgeball is very funny in places, mainly because I love slapstick humour and a film with balls in the face will always get a giggle. Vaughn and Stiller are as watchable as ever but very rarely raise the film above a decent, watchable comedy which can be cool in places but never really hilarious or consistently great. I have high hopes for The Watch though.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)