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DODGEBALL

Region 2 Edition

Director:  Rawson Marshall Thurber

Featuring:  Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Alan Tudyk

THE FILM

Slacker Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughan) owns a run-down gymnasium, Average Joe's, which is home-from-home to a bunch of misfit customers. A big-business health and fitness chain, Globo Gym, led by the obnoxious White Goodman (Ben Stiller) is trying to force Average Joe's out of business. Discovering that he needs $50,000 to keep his gym solvent, La Fleur assembles a motley band of 'athletes' and enters a dodgeball championship...

Dodgeball may be formulaic (it follows the blueprint established by numerous sports dramas like The Mighty Ducks and Remember The Titans), but it manages to wring plenty of laughs from a simple concept, and it's likeable characters.

Vince Vaughan has been in far better movies (Swingers, and its underrated follow-up, Made, for example), but he's a good team player here, alongside Stephen Root (from cult gem Office Space), Jeepers Creepers' Justin Long, The Larry Sanders Show's Rip Torn (as legendary dodgeball coach Patches O'Houlihan) and Firefly's Alan Tudyk. There are also great cameos from Gary Cole (another Office Space alumni, but perhaps best known to comedy fans as Mike Brady in the Brady Bunch movies) and The Simpsons' Hank Azaria.

Ben Stiller has never been twitchier, and his performance here is as broad as the one he gave in Zoolander. Personally I prefer him a little more subdued, in movies like The Royal Tenenbaums or Meet The Parents, but I guess his more manic personas have their fans, too.

The jokes come thick and fast, and there's some very quotable dialogue - almost everything Patches O'Houlihan says, for example. Writer / Director Rawson Marshall Thurber has injected the film with plenty of energy, and the film zips along most agreeably.

THE DVD

The disc is being promoted in the UK as an "Uncut Version". This appears to mean that it's the same as the International theatrical edit, which has a few minor differences to the US theatrical cut, which was toned down by the MPAA. More information on this later.

The disc is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 format. It's hard to fault the transfer, which has bold colours, sharp contrast and good apparent detail. There's a touch of edge-enhancement haloing evident here and there, but it's a small price to pay for such a clean look.

The average bit-rate is a rather low 4.9Mb/s, but it rarely dips below the 4.5Mb/s mark, and much of the film is rather static. Slow-motion analysis of the film's action scenes reveals some resolution deficiencies, but these sequences are so quick-cut, that it's barely noticeable in normal playback mode.

The film has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (at 448kbps). Apart from the commentaries, it's the only audio track on offer, so no bit-rate is being wasted here. The mix is polished, but rarely spectacular. There's some good crowd ambience during the film's stadium sequences, with good surround presence. Dialogue is generally well-recorded, and the sounds of the dodgeballs hitting the contestants packs a satisfying wallop.

The disc offers English HoH subtitles, on the film, the commentaries, and the other bonus materials.

The various on-screen captions (captions charting the progress of the dodgeball championship from round to round, and a scene featuring some subtitled German dialogue), appear as they would have in the theatrical presentation (these are not player-generated).

THE BONUS MATERIAL

NB: This section includes spoiler details about the Easter Eggs to be found on the disc. 

The disc includes two full-length commentary tracks, one which is accessible directly from the disc menus, and a second that is hidden as an Easter Egg. The first features Thurber, Stiller and Vaughn, and is certainly worth listening to. It's a chatty track, kept amusing by Vaughn, who's typically amusing and sharp-witted. Stiller is more subdued, and you get the impression that he rarely comments without being prompted. There's a fair bit of background information conveyed here, including discussion of some of the creative choices that were dictated by the film's schedule and budget, and of the narrative changes made as the production rolled out. The second, by Thurber alone, is more focused, and rather less fun. There's some duplication of information between the two tracks, but nothing too irksome.

Deleted and Extended Scenes

Dodgeball is pretty lean, so it's not surprising to find that there was a lot of material shot that didn't make the final edit. This section features a total of eleven minutes of deleted material, presented in reasonably good-quality non-anamorphic widescreen format.

They are: Cardio Cowboy, Gordon Asks For A Divorce / White Goodman's Metaphor Speech, Justin and Amber see Derek Before Cheerleading Finals, The Dirty Sanchez, Fran and Owen in bed, Kate's Porch, Justin and Amber Kiss, Shame Triangle, Three Way Kiss, Different ending with [SPOILER - click and drag to reveal] fat White Goodman (pizza bagels are burning).

The inclusion of the Justin and Amber Kiss scene is initially a bit of a puzzle, since the scene is apparently identical to the version on the film. All is revealed by the commentary track: the end of the scene (the kiss) was cut from the US theatrical version of the film at the studio's request, but it was retained in the International version.

Alternate Ending (1'15")

Presented separate from the other deleted scenes, and with it's own menu option, this Alternate Ending is actually the director's preferred ending. It was changed at the studio's insistence. This version [SPOILER] cuts at the point where the Purple Cobras win the tournament - there's no cop-out happy ending! Thurber explains on the optional commentary that he - and some of the key cast members - felt very strongly that the film should end this way, and in fact even walked off the film for a week in a dispute with the studio, before eventually capitulating. It's difficult to know if he's being serious or not. It's certainly hard to believe that the film might have ended this way.

Featurettes

Dodgeball Boot Camp: Training For Dodgeball (3m)

Interviews with the cast members and the Stunt Co-ordinator, Alex Daniels, about the cast's rigorous training process.

The Anatomy of a Hit  (3m)

Thurber distils the essence of the film's physical comedy: getting hit in the groin or in the face by a dodgeball is funny.

One of the clips in this featurette is different from the scene as it appears in the film. The line "You're about as useful as a poopie-flavoured lollipop" is from the US MPAA-approved theatrical edit of the film. In the International version Patches says ""You're about as useful as a cock-flavoured lollipop"! There is at least one other similar dialogue substitution in the US theatrical / DVD release, so for the unexpurgated Dodgeball experience, get the UK disc!

Justin Long: A Study in Ham & Cheese  (3m)

An impressive compilation of ad-libs, shots of Justin getting hit by dodgeballs, and other physical comedy.

Dodgeball: Go For The Gold  (1m)

Vince and Ben make the case for making dodgeball an Olympic sport.

More with the Dodgeball Dancers (with video introduction by Writer/Director Rawson Marshall Thurber)

Thurber introduces three minutes of footage of the Dodgeball Dancers strutting their stuff: "I know what you're doing. You know what you're doing. Let's not talk about it!" There are three short clips, with self-explanatory titles: In Pink, In Blue and In Black.

Bloopers / Gag Reel  (3m)

An amusing and uncensored selection of fluffs and screw-ups.

Inside Look  (2m)

A very short promotional featurette for the movie, including in-character interviews.

Easter Eggs

There are also a few Easter Eggs scattered around. These include a clip of Justin frolicking with the car wash babes (via the Featurettes menu); and an extended version of the "Blade... Laser... Blazer..." scene, with Cousin Jeff in the line-up (from the Special Features menu). The best one, which is to be found on the Commentary menu, gives the viewer access to the second commentary track, by Thurber on his own.

There's also one that leads to the Thurber / Stiller / Vaughn commentary (by highlighting the Purple Cobras logo on the Special Features menu). Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but it just seems to be alternate way of accessing the group commentary. On the US disc clicking this leads to instructions to find the other Easter Eggs: whenever Stiller's character clicks his fingers in the film, you press enter. It seems that Fox's UK authors have opted for a far more straightforward presentation. Most reviewers of the US disc missed the Easter Eggs completely!

That's a pretty comprehensive array of bonus materials for a film of this type, even if most of them are short and superficial

The US disc has a couple of Dodgeball trailers, and makes the script available via DVD-Rom. It also has a different array of promotional trailers (for Pauly Shore Is Dead, The Ringer and an advert for the DVD release of the Arrested Development TV series, which features Jason Bateman, who plays the younger of the two Dodgeball match commentators). The US disc also contains a promotional featurette for the Daredevil sequel, Elektra.

The UK disc opens with a string of clutter and promotional drek, most of which can be skipped, using the menu or chapter forward buttons. For the record, you get: an anti-piracy trailer (downloading movies is wrong, kids!), a FACT information screen, trailers for Robots, Sideways, Bride and Prejudice and The Clearing, and an advert for the various Simpsons DVDs. The CGI Robots trailer is worth a look, if you haven't seen it, and Alexander Payne's film Sideways looks promising...

SUMMARY

Fox UK's Dodgeball disc, while not quite the equivalent of the US edition, is perfectly fine. It has a great transfer, and about as much bonus material as you could reasonably expect from a single-disc edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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