Like many Ben Stiller movies, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story features a great comic premise that never fires on all cylinders. Starring as White Goodman, Stiller has the dumb, punishing globe owner shtick down pat, but the act tires when the writing doesn't provide any solid jokes. Stiller's voice work is funny during the opening gym commercial, but after that, it succeeds only when the gags work.
Fortunately for Stiller, he is surrounded by a cast that picks up the slack. Vince Vaughn plays Peter La Fleur, the owner of Average Joe's gym, which Goodman is trying to buy-out. Christine Taylor plays Kate Veatch, Peter's love interest.
Vaughn and Taylor carry on an average, bearable romantic subplot, but the film succeeds with its supporting cast. Rip Torn plays Patches O'Houlihan, the coach of Peter's team, which hopes to raise enough money to keep the gym. Torn's best gags, like many of the film's high points, come through physical comedy. Torn throws wrenches at the players, and the players throw rubber balls at each other, and it all adds up to bizarre hilarity.
When the film reaches the big dodgeball tournament, director Rawson Marshall Thurber quickly moves from round to round, never letting the physical humor tire. He also expertly uses Gary Cole and Jason Bateman as the sport's announcers. Cole and Bateman put together a great parody of ESPN and sports announcing in general.
Stiller has not made a classic comedy yet, but Dodgeball proves, despite its faults, that the actor has it in him. Dodgeball is a funny film, and while it's not as good as it could have been, it hints at an even brighter future for Stiller and his pleasant, surprising co-stars.