Film / DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story

"If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the 2004 comedy 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.

This film provides examples of:

  • '80s Hair: White's mullet is a classic invoked example, along with his handlebar moustache. Along with his choice of clothing when trying to woo Kate, it marks him as a Disco Dan.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: White Goodman to Kate, which is made funnier by the fact that they are married in real life.
  • Adam Westing: David Hasselhoff, Chuck Norris, and Lance Armstrong.
  • All for Nothing:
    • The Wounded Gazelle Gambit pulled by the girl scouts who played against the Average Joe's means nothing when one of them fails the drug test and their team is disqualified.
    • 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.
      Cotton: They came all this way for nothing! Absolutely nothing! (credits roll to somber music)
  • Alpha Bitch: Subverted with Amber, who is a genuinely nice person who is attracted to Justin and really likes him.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Word of God has it that the movie was supposed to take place in the early 1990s (The Globo Gym ad from the opening scene notes that White was fat in 1987, which he states as being six years earlier, placing the film in 1993), 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.
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Steve the Pirate.
  • Babies Ever After: Amber is pregnant with Justin's child in the Average Joe's ad at the end of the movie.
  • Beauty Is Bad: The Cobras are all athletic and (with a single exception) really, really ridiculously good-looking, and believe they are superior to people who aren't as good looking solely on the basis of their appearance.
  • Berserk Button: Gordon seeing his mail-order bride with another man.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Kate attacks White for harassing her at her home.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: Fran Stalinovskovichdavidovitchsky.
  • Bi the Way: Kate. "I am not a lesbian. I'm bisexual!" A deleted scene reveals that Joyce, Kate's supposed girlfriend, is bisexual as well and really seems to like Peter.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Cotton describes the final matchup between Average Joe's and Globo Gym as "a David and Goliath story truer than the Bible itself."
  • Book Ends: The movie begins and ends with a commercial of a successful gym and the viewer looking like a slob and grumbling, "Spare me" with disdain.
  • Bowdlerise: The scene where Peter introduces the team to Patches, reassuring them that he's a normal guy. In the the theatrical cut, Patches says "I love the smell of queef in the morning", to which Peter says "Well...normal for us". In televised versions, Patches doesn't say anything but Peter still gives him faint praise, making it seem like the sight of an old man in a wheelchair is just as bizarre as a comment about queefs.
  • Brawn Hilda: Fran. In the epilogue, she is shown to be substantially more attractive, though.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    White (introducing his team): "Blade... Laser... Blazer..."
    • Later lampshaded by Dwight. "They've got Razor and Taser and all sorts of 'azers!"
  • Bread Milk Eggs Squick:
    Cotton McKnight: Ladies and gentlemen, I have been to the Great Wall of China, I have seen the Pyramids of Egypt, I have even seen a grown man satisfy a camel!"
  • Break the Cutie: "You are not a pirate."
  • 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.
    • A few of the bondage enthusiasts decided to stick around and watch the tournament after switching uniforms with the Joe's. They can be seen in the celebration at the end.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Mocked with Goodman's offer, which is a single stack in a large case (actually too small for the amount specified).
  • The Brute: Blade, Laser and Blazer.
  • Butt-Monkey: Nearly all of the Joe's, but Justin takes the most abuse throughout.
  • The Cameo: Lance Armstrong giving his motivational speech to Peter, years before his doping came to light.
  • Captain Obvious: When Peter blindfolds himself, Pepper comments, "He's not going to be able to see very well." In fact, Cotton often sets these up for Pepper.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Cause here at Globo Gym, we're better than you, and we know it!"
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Me'Shell walks in on White trying to do something with a slice of pizza.
  • 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 stereotype in every way except gender.
  • 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 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.
    • And Steve the Pirate.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Director Rawson Marshall Thurber as the guy who voices what he thinks of the Joe's in their bondage gear. ("Hey assholes! You guys suck!") He also appeared later as the drive-by guy who pelts Steve the Pirate with a milkshake and yells at him to go back to Treasure Island.
    • Ben Stiller could count as well, considering his production company made the movie, and he, of course, plays White Goodman.
  • Cuckoolander Commentator: Pepper Brooks. Good lord, Pepper Brooks.
    Cotton McKnight: Folks, I'm being told that Average Joe's does not have enough players, and will be forfeiting the championship match.
    Pepper Brooks: It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for 'em.
  • Dating Catwoman: Fran and Owen.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Peter
  • Death by Irony: Lampshaded with Patches O'Houlihan's death by the "Luck o' the Irish" sign.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The American Dodgeball Association of America, as well as Patches' 5 Ds of Dodgeball: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge.
  • 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'.
    • Also, Chuck Norris.
  • Dirty Old Man:
    • Patches.
    • Also, the creepy truck driver who keeps paying Justin to wash his truck so he can stare at him.
  • Dismotivation: Peter feels that a goal is just the first step to disappointment, while Goodman takes an incredibly unhealthy approach to "personal improvement".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: White wants to tear down Average's Joes because Peter slept with three of his female trainers (in one night) and sent a male stripper-gram to him for the Globo Gym one year anniversary. That's on one level. When White details his ultimate plan to Peter, he adds that he would prefer that the Average Joe's crew was in the building when the demolition took place.
  • 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.
    • In the final match, White manages to take out Peter and win the match... but stepped over the line doing it. This counts as a foul and takes him out of the match, too, resulting in the Sudden Death tie breaker round. The DVD comes with an alternative ending where this doesn't happen and there's a Downer Ending.
  • Dodgeball Is Hell: The entire premise.
  • 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 Joe's were originally intended to lose but Executive Meddling put a stop to it, making the DVD extra a bit of Writer Revolt.)
  • Down to the Last Play: It comes down to a Sudden Death tiebreaker between Peter and White.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Patches literally dies from getting something dropped on him.
  • Establishing Character Moment: You learn pretty much everything you need to know about White in the opening Globo Gym infomercial.
  • Evil, Inc.: Globo Gym. Hell, their company slogan is "We're better than you, and we know it."
  • Evil Is Hammy: White, big time.
  • 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, Peter has bet the $100,000 bribe on Average Joe's victory. Between the millions of gambling profit and the $50,000 prize money, Peter is able to invest in and gain control of Globo Gym wich, as a publicly-owned company, White can do nothing about. How long Peter was planning this scheme is debatable.
  • Fan Disservice: The scene after the end credits, which is mercifully not shown when aired on network television.
  • Fanservice:
  • Feigning Intelligence: White Goodman. And he's fooling exactly no one.
  • 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.
  • Garnishing the Story: Steve the Pirate.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-Universe and applied literally here. The German team gathers around a picture of David Hasselhoff before their match, after their match they're scolded for their defeat by their coach, David Hasselhoff!
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: The finale.
  • Girl Scouts Are Evil: One of the dodgeball teams.
  • Girls with Moustaches: The Girl Scout who had been taking steroids.
  • Going Commando: At the cheerleader tryouts, Justin is assigned a very large cheerleader who informs him she isn't wearing panties.
  • Groin Attack: The Average Joe team always got hit in the groin with the dodgeballs.
  • Happy Ending: The real cut of the film, in contrast to the "original conclusion" on the DVD (which was a joke).
  • Happy Ending Massage: Cotton describes Vegas as "a city where you can get a happy ending, but only if you pay a little extra."
  • Hate Sink: White. He's obnoxious, rude, full of himself, and is mainly just a complete Jerkass.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Fran, as a result of Owen. The ending shows her at Average Joe's.
  • Hourglass Plot: The movie starts with White starring a Globo Gym ad on TV and Peter watching it and ends with Peter starring an Average Joe's Gym ad on TV and White watching it.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: One of the Girl Scouts, as the result of numerous steroids.
  • "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: Subverted with Average Joe's trying a car wash to raise money.
  • Improvised Training:
    Patches: If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.
    Justin: "What?
    (Justin Long's eyebrow was cut open)
  • Insane Troll Logic: How do you argue with anyone who claims "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball"? And if you do argue with such a man, you promptly get a wrench thrown at you.
  • Ironic Echo: "Spare me" is said by both Peter in the beginning after watching Globo Gym's ad, and by White at the end after watching Average Joe's ad.
  • Jerkass: White Goodman and how. A prime example of one of Ben Stiller's few non-Butt-Monkey characters.
  • Kick the Dog: Early in the film, White orders one of his workers to manually increase the women's scales by 3 pounds.
  • Large Ham: Ben Stiller as White Goodman.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: White Goodman gets struck by this at the end of the movie.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others:
    • Peter's phone call from the video store. "The following videos are now overdue: Drunken Hussies 3, Backdoor Patrol 5, and Mona Lisa Smile."
    • Cotton's The Triple always ends with something completely off topic.
  • Light Is Not Good: Despite his name, White Goodman is a colossal douchebag.
  • Majority-Share Dictator: Peter buys Globo Gym's controlling stake using the $5 million his team won. He is then able to totally remodel the gym while the original majority shareholder eats himself back to into obesity.
  • Malaproper: White Goodman does this sometimes, along with having some trouble with spelling and metaphors.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Patches gets crushed by a falling sign before the final match. A sign that reads "The Luck o' the Irish!"
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: The training montage.
  • Narcissist: White Goodman.
  • Nice Girl: Kate.
  • Nice Guy: Justin and Peter.
  • 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 Joe's.
    • 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.
  • No Bisexuals: A Running Gag throughout the movie is that everyone except Peter insists that Kate is a lesbian. Then at the end of the game she kisses another girl. Turns out she's still not a lesbian, though.
  • Noodle Incident: The Helsinki episode of 1919, when the last double-fault final-play elimination occurred.
    Cotton McKnight: ...and I think we all know how that ended.
  • 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.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: White claims that Fran is the deadliest woman in the world... with a dodgeball.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: Many. One of the main characters, Justin, is on a pom squad, dates someone else likewise, and many scenes involve their training and routines.
  • Precision F-Strike: Fat Goodman has one.
    White Goodman: "Spare me... I won that tournament... fuckin' Chuck Norris!"
  • Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: It's a collection of random dudes and a female attorney vs. a bunch of fitness buffs.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Peter to the Average Joe's crew.
    • The Chancellor as well.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Patches' character is completely built around this.
    "Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine? No, but I do it anyway because it's sterile and I like the taste."
  • Running Gag:
    • Patches calling Kate various permutations of 'lesbian' after she joined the team.
  • Save Our Team: Well, Save Our Gym anyway.
  • Scary Black Man: Me'Shell.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: White gets his team into the tournament by calling in a favor from the dodgeball chancellor.
  • Serious Business: Dodgeball, in this universe. There is a $50,000 annual tournament. It attracts, at least, Germans and Japanese people. One of the teams was 'Inner City' champs for consecutive years. Chuck Norris is on the panel to decide whether Average Joe's gets to play the final round. It is taken as seriously as a P.E. exercise can be.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Fran looks much more beautiful at the finale, having hitched up with Owen. She still has the unibrow, though, so we'll know it's her.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Patches.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • 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!"
  • The Smurfette Principle: Kate is the only girl on the Average Joe's team, and Fran on the Cobras'.
  • 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 beans her in the face after.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Steve!
  • Tempting Fate: In the "Luck of the Irish" scene, Peter remarks that, "As long as we have Patches, we've got a shot (at beating Globo Gym)." Cue Patches getting crushed to death 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. And then in a deleted scene, hugs his two children and tells his Mail-Order Bride that he wants a divorce when she tries to act like she always believed in him.
  • Totally Radical: "ESPN 8-The Ocho!" This is a reference to ESPN 2, which was originally referred to as "The Deuce".
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The poster spoils Kate joining the Joe's team.
  • Training from Hell: Patches O'Houlihan trains the team by tossing wrenches at them, making them run through traffic, a "pitching machine" that launches dodgeballs...
    "If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball!"
  • The Triple: Dodgeball announcer Cotton McKnight is good at these. "It's an event greater than The World Cup, World Series, and World War II combined!" and "Tomorrow we separate the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, and the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian" — culminating in "Ladies and gentlemen, I have BEEN to the Great Wall of China, I have SEEN the Pyramids of Egypt ... I've even seen a grown man satisfy a camel!"
  • True Companions: The Average Joe's regulars.
  • Ugly Slavic Women: This trope was used as recently as 2004 with the ugly woman with a unibrow from "Romanovia".
  • 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.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "You're going down like a bran muffin!"
  • Unstoppable Rage: Four words: "You gotta get ANGRY!!!!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Gordon sees his Mail-Order Bride flirting with another man, and she's never seen again. In a deleted scene, after she congratulates him on the win, he says he wants a divorce on the spot, much to the delight of his kids.
  • 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.
    • Probably because the film was also the subject of a somewhat successful copyright-infringement lawsuit by two writers of an unproduced screenplay about a dodgeball tournament with some interesting similarities as well. They were allowed to proceed because the judge found that they could make a credible argument that that the screenwriter of Dodgeball had seen their script.
  • Would Hit a Girl: White. It is with a dodgeball, mind, but it was right in the face out of anger, and it was an illegal hit because she had already been eliminated.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: A Girl scout member of a dodgeball team tries to invoke this trope to their team's advantage. It worked.
  • Would Hurt a Child: At the end of the movie, White Goodman pushes a child out of his way and steals the child's hot-dog.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: The girl scout hit by Peter pulled one to distract him while the other girls hit him. It worked but it was All for Nothing since her team was disqualified.
  • Wrench Whack: "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." Cue people getting hit by wrenches.

Alternative Title(s): Dodgeball