Dodgeball bounces into theaters

So how do you make an interesting movie out of a sport that most people might have played for a week in school gym class? In the case of “Dodgeball”, get a strong comedic cast and go for laughs because most audiences will be able to follow this simple sport compromising of the Five Ds ” dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.

Average Joe gym owner Peter La Fleur, played by Vince Vaughn (Old School), leads a group of rag-tag misfits and adorns his establishment with optimistic sayings like “Failure is an option-it lets us learn from our mistakes.”

Financial difficulties bring bank lawyer Kate Veatch, played by Christine Taylor (Ben Stiller’s real life wife), into his life. She’s a no-nonsense love interest who sympathizes with Peter’s plight. Stephen Root (TV’s News Radio, Office Space) plays the passive aggressive gym regular Gordon very well, but the rest of the characters don’t make much of an impact.

The slick Globo Gym Corporation and owner White Goodman, played by a buffed up Stiller, jumps at the chance to eliminate their competition, so they interfere with La Fleur’s financial activities and dodgeball quest by forming their own team.

White’s team includes his assistant Me’Shell, played by Jamal Duff who played college and pro football, and foreign ringer Fran, played by Missi Pyle, who went mono-y-mono against Queen Latifah in “Bringing Down the House”. White’s tactics border on ruthless at times, but his odd antics and his background balance his comedic effectiveness in the story.

The sports references and background gags provide great additional comedy to the character jokes and banter from Dodgeball announcers Cotton McKnight, played by veteran actor Gary Cole, and Pepper Brooks, a weak comedic showing for TV veteran Jason Bateman. ADAA (American Dodgeball Association of America) teams include the Yetis, She Mullets and Skillz That Killz.

Red Hour Films, Ben Stiller’s production company, made this mildly entertaining fare with director/writer Rawson Marshall Thurber, who made Terry Tate, Office Linebacker, a hilarious short that reportedly spawned the Reebok tackling office worker commercials (check out for some samples). Thurber’s transitions, both directorial and story-based, could use some polishing, especially in The “Luck of the Irish” sequence, but some nice foreshadowing and some surprising events increase interest in the story.

Since Stiller has a personal investment in the film, he puts a wide range of comedy that increases the movie’s success, but hits some areas that might offend, especially Rip Torn’s role as Patches O’ Houlihan, a veteran dodgeball player who helps Average Joe’s members improve their team (after appearing in the horrendously bad Tom Green movie “Freddy Got Fingered”, Torn fits the role perfectly because he doesn’t have anyone left to offend). More potentially offensive jokes include a dodgeball documentary film where Hank Azaria has a cameo as a young Patches and a vision.

Look for a great cameo from Lance Armstrong and others from William Shatner, Chuck Norris and David Hassleoff. Have fun with this movie ” with a short run time of about one hour and 40 minutes, you won’t feel like you wasted too much time.

Filmmakers changed up the original ending just enough and squeeze in a good amount of laughs to be recommended with reservations (**), but it’s a one-timer for most audiences-maybe that’s why the sneak previews show a lot of the best material (thankfully not all of it). Rated PG-13 for sexual humor, adult themes and profanity, the worst instance coming during the ending credits.