Out on a count of clichés

Dodge Ball: A True Underdog Story will leave viewers confused — not because the plot is convoluted or the moral aims are indiscernible, but because they won’t know whether to love it or hate it. One aspect of the film that is perfectly clear, however, is that Ben Stiller’s performance is over-the-top annoying.

Dodgeball is a feel-good story about two rival gyms competing in a dodge ball tournament for the rights to Peter LeFleur’s (Vince Vaughn) dinky fitness center, Average Joe’s Gym. Aiming to annex Average Joe’s is White Goodman (Ben Stiller), the bothersome owner of Globo Gym.

Delinquent mortgage payments force LeFleur to come up with $50,000, or else Goodman will get his gym. LeFleur’s odd collection of customers depend on Average Joe’s and band together to help him save it by entering a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament.

From the very beginning Stiller’s character is unbelievably contrived and irritating. It is safe to say that nearly every scene where Stiller is in a scene it will make viewers cringe.

Vaughn’s out-of-character, non-sarcastic performance leaves something to be desired, as well, but is stomachable compared to Stiller’s. The comic moments that frequently force this bad movie into good moments come from the film’s lesser stars. Stephen Root, who plays Gordon, gets a few laughs, as does Steve the Pirate (Alan Tudyk), who, with comedic talent, pretends to be a real pirate throughout the movie. Even Rip Torn, who plays Patches O’Houlihan, has his funny moments until those moments are repeated so many times they become annoying.

Dodgeball was so hit-and-miss that it is extremely difficult to recognize this as a good movie, but it is nearly impossible to say that it does not have its funny moments. A few scenes had the audience in tears while others contained stale one-liners that left the theater silent.

Most of the film’s problems stem from Stiller’s lines, his character and his performance, all of which are, for a lack of a better word, stupid. With a barrage of critically panned flicks (Along Came Polly and Envy) to his credit already this year, Stiller is on his way to a reputation for bad movies a la frequent co-star and friend Janeane Garofalo. He needed to develop a different character for this film instead of slapping a mustache on Derrick Zoolander and making him play dodgeball.

The shining moments of the film are the shock-factor jokes as well as slapstick-funny scenes.

Cameos including David Hasselhoff as the German team coach and Chuck Norris as a dodgeball judge also made for a few good chuckles.

A beer, a pizza and Dodgeball on DVD will make for a good time, but there is no need to rush out and see this mediocre display of fart jokes in theatres. Vaughn needs to go back to being sarcastic and Stiller needs to quit cloning his character. This definitely was a movie for minor roles to shine — those minor roles saved this movie.