Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story revolves around amiable underachiever Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn), who owns a rundown gym called "Average Joe's" with a less-than-average clientèle, including a self-styled pirate (Alan Tudyk), an ultra-obscure sports aficionado (Stephen Root), and a pining high-school Nerd (Justin Long).Despite the gym posing little threat to Globo Gym, a fitness goliath owned by White Goodman (Ben Stiller), Peter's humble recreation centre becomes a subject of much controversy when Goodman learns of his rival's less-than-meticulous bookkeeping. Determined to crush his rival and build a new parking area for Globo Gym, Goodman hires attorney Kate Veach (Christine Taylor) to initiate a hostile takeover of the gym.However, not all hope is lost: if Peter and his ragtag group of regulars can raise the $50,000 needed to cover Peter's deficit payments, then Average Joe's will be saved from both the corporate and literal bulldozers. With little talent and a great deal of misplaced enthusiasm, their last hope rests in a national Dodgeball tournament with a cash prize of exactly $50,000. Unfortunately, Goodman learns of their plans and enters his own elite squadron, the Globo Gym Purple Cobras, into the tournament to take home the gold themselves and thwart their heart-warming underdog victory.
All for Nothing: It almost looks like this was the case for Average Joe's in the match against Globo Gym, until a referee says that White stepped over the line in his throw, which allows the match to continue. Interestingly, an "alternate ending" gag on the DVD ends the movie right after Globo Gym appears to win.
Ambiguous Time Period: Word of God has it that the movie was supposed to take place in the early 1990s, but the case of Anachronism Stew including Peter renting Mona Lisa Smile on DVD, as well as digital cable being in existence would suggest otherwise; it pretty much looks as if it could have been set in the present day.
Amoral Attorney: Averted, Kate falls for the lovable losers and eventually joins them.
Brick Joke: Peter tells Owen that there's a right person for everyone. Sometimes, there are two right people for one person; he calls that "The Jackpot." The ending suggests that Peter may end up with Kate and her girlfriend Joyce.
I thought it was that Kate had it with her girlfriend and Peter?
It's pretty minor, but apparently a few of the bondage enthusiasts decided to stick around and watch the tournament after switching uniforms with the Joes.
Captain Obvious: When Peter blindfolds himself, the announcers are astute enough to note "Peter has blindfolded himself." "He's not going to be able to see very well." In fact, the announcers have several of these moments throughout the film, with Pepper usually being the prime suspect.
Chekhov's Gun: For a quick-fire comedy film, Dodgeball is surprisingly well-scripted as a story. Every single significant plot point is foreshadowed in advance, from the obvious (Gordon quoting the exact double-fault-elimination rule that comes into play during the finale) to the ridiculous ("Man, she gotta be a lesbian.") to the subtle (White's throwaway boast that Globo Gym is worth "over four million dollars", which later confirms that Peter would have the funds to purchase a controlling stake with his $5 million win).
Averted with the lawyer specializing in sexual harassment cases who doesn't sue the creep who sexually harasses her through a large part of the film.
She'd have to sue her employer, as White is merely her bank's client, and the bank would be the one liable.
The Cheerleader: Played with; Justin is a male cheerleader and a nice guy and his cheerleader girlfriend is a total sweetheart but the (male) head cheerleader fits the evil, manipulative head cheerleader sterotype in every way except gender.
The Chew Toy: Justin. None of the scripted dialogue could hope to be half as funny as seeing Justin Long get hit by a flying wrench. Or a ball, for that matter. Or a fat cheerleader's... pom-pom... His moment came in the finals by finally catching a dodge-ball and help bring back the two main players in the game, though his chew toy status is retained after his moment was over.
Cloudcuckoolander: White Goodman shows occasional signs of this, as does color commentator Pepper Brooks ("I sure do like pumpkins, Cotton!"). But the prize-winners are Owen and Patches.
Although it's not shown, the former makes some sort of sense if you consider that there's more than one school of play, as with pool or swimming, since the sport is American Dodgeball, so presumably the German team pays dues to the American Dodgeball Association of Germany.
Deus ex Machina: Lampshaded. After Average Joe's wins the dodgeball tournament and Peter receives his betting winnings, the money is revealed in a treasure chest that reads 'Deus Ex Machina'.
Dismotivation: Peter feels that a goal is just the first step to disappointment, while Goodman takes an incredibly unhealthy approach to "personal improvement".
Disqualification-Induced Victory: The Average Joe's have to win at least one game to qualify for the championships. However they suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of some evil girlscouts. Fortunately, one of the scouts tests positive for steroids and beaver tranquillisers, so the Joe's win by default.
Nearer the end of the film, there's a downplayed example; when the main antagonist appears to have managed to hit Vince Vaughn's character and won...but luckily his foot was over the line, so it didn't count. The DVD comes with an alternative ending where this doesn't happen and there's a Downer Ending.
Double Entendre: The motto(?) of the ADAA tournament, shown on a huge banner above the court, is "GO BALLS DEEP!"
Enough involving balls, such as "It's time to put your mouth where our balls are!" that you will laugh every time someone says the word "balls".
Near the beginning of the film, the Average Joe's gang goes to a Mexican cantina called "Dirty Sanchez's."
Downer Ending: The creators had a joke "original ending" on the DVD that some took seriously. It just ends before the sudden death match, implying that The Bad Guy Wins, and doesn't go into any detail about what happened to the characters. If it wasn't a joke it would have been a terrible ending since it would have left many plot threads left dangling open as mentioned above in the Brick Joke and Foreshadowing sections. (There are rumors the Joes were originally intended to lose but Executive Meddling put a stop to it, making the DVD extra a bit of Writer Revolt.)
Failure Gambit: Before the final playoff between Average Joe's and Globo Gym, Peter signs over ownership of the Average Joe's gym to White after being bribed with $100,000. Even though Average Joe's win the game, White boasts that Peter has nothing now that his gym has been absorbed by Globo Gym. However, between the $100,000 bribe and the $50,000 prize money, Peter is able to invest in and gain control of Globo Gym as a publically-owned company, which White can do nothing about. How long Peter was planning this scheme is debatable.
Gang of Hats: The dodgeball teams that Average Joe's and Globo-Gym compete against include a team of Girl Scouts (who play in full uniform), a team of German bodybuilders, a team of lumberjacks, a team of break-dancers, and a team of Japanese martial artists who play in their underwear. Hilariously, Average Joe's unintentionally becomes one when a botched package delivery forces them to play their first match wearing S&M gear.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: While training the team, Pete sees that Kate has a strong throw, and lobbies her to join his team. Kate rebuffs him, explaining that since she's working for the bank that's trying to foreclose on his gym and sell it to Globo Gym, it would be a conflict of interest for her to join. Then White Goodman, wanting to romance her (despite her having zero interest in White), arranges for her to get fired so that he can pursue her without being accused of sexual harassment. Suddenly, Kate no longer has a conflict of interest (not to mention a LOT of motive) to join the Average Joes.
Furthermore, White's attempt to bribe Peter and buy Average Joe's out from underneath him backfires spectacularly when it gives Peter the money he eventually turns into a controlling stake in Globo Gym.
Off The Wagon: It's established at the beginning of the film that White Goodman is Formerly Fat. After the end of the tournament, he apparently goes back to binge-eating, going so far as to steal a hot dog from a spectator as he storms off the court. You get to see him in all his obese glory in The Stinger.
Playing Against Type: Jason Bateman's role is one of his few that is not an uptight Straight Man. Also, Ben Stiller's role as White Goodman is a change from his usual roles as a hapless everyman Butt Monkey, although he plays a similar fitness-obsessed villain in Heavyweights.
Shout-Out: The final matchup is the Average Joes' Gym versus White Goodman's Purple Cobras. You read it right. Joes vs Cobras.
A more subtle Shout-Out occurs at the start of the Cobras vs. Kamikazes highlight clip. The team logos shown are a cobra and a bonsai tree, which are the tournament logos for the Cobra Kai dojo and Daniel LaRusso from The Karate Kid.
Gordon comes off as the least developed member of the Average Joe's team, and he gets the smallest share of lines. Notably, though, he's the one who tells the rest of the guys about the dodgeball tournament's cash prize (the rest of the characters had never even heard of competitive dodgeball before he brought it up), meaning that the movie's entire plot probably wouldn't have happened if it weren't for him.
Played for Laughs with Chuck Norris and his unexpected cameo. He's in the movie for less than a minute, but his intervention ensures that Average Joe's is able to enter the final round. Lampshaded by White at the end: his last line (and the last line of the movie) is "Fucking Chuck Norris!"
Spit Take: Justin's reaction to seeing Fran for the first time.
Take a Third Option: Before their match, Goodman, confident that he'll beat Peter, offers him a Briefcase Full of Money to sell him Average Joe's instead. He takes the money, but then is inspired to use it to bet on his team to win, using the winnings to buy a controlling share in Globo Gym and steal it right out from under Goodman.
Take That: White Goodman gives one to the audience at the end of the credits.
Taking the Bullet: Kate makes a diving save to protect Peter from getting hit in the final match. This angers White so much that he reams her in the face after.
Tempting Fate: In the "Luck of the Irish" scene, one of the team members remark "What will we do without Patches?" Cue Patches getting hit with the "Luck of the Irish" sign.
Took a Level in Badass: Upon seeing his Mail Order Bride getting flirted with in front of his children, Gordon hits the Berserk Button and in a Crowing Moment of Awesome wipes out the entire Poughkeepsie State Flying Cougars on his own with warrior cries and rapid precision strikes that have the other team cowering in fear.
Underdogs Never Lose: The creators used a subversion of the trope in an alternate ending (making the subtitle A True Underdog Story a lot more meaningful), but the "alternate ending" ends abruptly and has no character resolution and was nothing more than just a joke.
Whole Plot Reference: This film surprisingly has a lot in common with the Sylvester Stallone film Over the Top. Examples include: main character entering a tournament for an obscure sport (dodgeball in this, arm wrestling in Over The Top) in Las Vegas, the grand prize being $50,000, the main character trying to win back an item (the gym in this, the custody of the main character's son in Over The Top), a scene where the hero and villain meet in a hotel room where the villain tries to get the hero to quit and a scene where the hero ponders on if to quit or keep going. Though it's never been mentioned by the director, you have to think that there was some inspiration.