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Incoming! Racking as Recreation in Dodgeball                


uts! Just when it was getting easy to hate Ben Stiller, he redeems himself in the testicular comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. As Globo Gym corporate fitness guru White Goodman, a leotarded and mustachioed former fattie who’s Richard Simmons-ed himself down to scrawny sinews, Stiller pumps up his inflatable silver jock strap and sets out to to destroy the neighborhood gym Average Joes, where dorky mortals eat sandwiches (instead of protein bars) with gym owner Peter Le Fleur (Vince Vaughn). In the manner of all local-guys-versus-The-Man comedies, the plot quickly boils down to a massive tournament, part Karate Kid, part Nickleodeon slime-fest. Grown men get beaten down by Girl Scouts, skulls (and groins) get bopped, and it all gets reported on ESPN 8, a.k.a. "The Ocho."

The unpretentious comedy moves fast, unburdened by high-concept conceits.

Sure, it’s stupid, but you know what you’re getting into. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber is a quick-hitting advertising vet (“Terry Tate: Office Linebacker?”) unafraid to hit the same note twice (so long as it’s funny), and his comedy doesn’t play so much to film-school grads or comics, but to giggling kids. And that’s fine. The unpretentious comedy moves fast, unburdened by the high-concept conceits or hip soundtracks that slow down so much slapstick these days (even if some of the idiotic gay jokes make ball-busting seem highminded). Throughout it all, Vaughn is hilarious as the laconic, blue-collar hero, while Stiller’s bad guy is a walking punchline, and — better yet — a walking target. Audience members who wasted money on Along Came Polly or Duplex will appreciate the satisfying "toing!" of bright red utility balls smacking repeatedly into his groin.  

  Logan Hill is a contributing writer at New York magazine. He has
contributed to Wired, The Nation, The New York Post, The New York Press and The Village Voice.