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Movie Column

The truest sport of all: Dodgeball.



Dodgeball, the greatest and truest of all sports. A simple game that perfectly exemplifies Darwin’s survival of the fittest. A sport where the wimpiest kids get picked last and, yes, the goal is to hurt people.

Also known as Murderball or Killball, Dodgeball is a definitive staple to any true high school experience. I’ll never forget the nervous joy of staring across the Pemberton High gymnasium at a lineup of burly redneck kids, strong-armed accurate Native kids and a bunch of ski-racer kids who did three hundred push-ups a day, all of them just itching to get good clean shot at loudmouth Banks, the second smallest guy in the school. Dodgeball is the real deal, a sport where to be the best you need the reflexes and awareness of an NHL goalie, the throwing arm of a major league pitcher and the acrobatic prowess of a ninja. Dodgeball rules, despite what your mothers and sissy school administrators might tell you.

And now Dodgeball is a movie in which a small local gym must win a $50,000 Dodgeball tournament to stave off being purchased by an uber-corporate fitness facility, whose Dodgeball team is the best there is. Yeah I noticed the cookie-cutter underdog comedy formula, but who cares? It’s got a strong cast, a healthy dose of social sarcasm (the self-obsessed, gullible fitness industry is perfectly ridiculed) and, dude, it’s about Dodgeball, and is thus automatically cool.

Written and Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (he did those Terry Tate Office Linebacker commercials for Reebok) Dodgeball ’s biggest weakness may be its biggest star, Ben Stiller. Stiller has two characters in his repertoire: the irrational neurotic ( Envy, Royal Tenembaums, Along came Polly) or self-obsessed moron ( Starksy and Hutch, Zoolander). This time it’s the second one, albeit a testosterone, steroided version thereof. Stiller pushes his comedy both physically and verbally as far as he can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s obvious overacting. This time it’s a little of both.

But supporting cast Vince Vaughn, Christine Talyor (this girl is superb) and Rip Torn are all solid so Stiller’s imperfections are easy to overlook. As well, the sight of people getting pummelled with balls is just as funny as it was in real life. Basically this movie is stupid, predictable, silly and fun, though painful at times. Kinda like the sport of Dodgeball. It rules.

Speaking of ruling, let’s have a big hand for the Rainbow Theatre, who are screening Kill Bill 1 and 2 back to back this week. This makes perfect sense and is the kind of thing the Rainbow should be doing as often as possible. Kill Bill is Quentin Tarantino’s funky, samurai, western revenge flick that’s one half comedic ultra-violence and one half fully developed characters spitting interesting dialogue back and forth. It stars Uma Thurman and is the kind of thing you’ll want to see a couple times. Unless you’re a pansy that’s afraid of having fun. In which case, maybe check out The Terminal.

Airports are a pain in the ass. And I’m not a big fan of Tom Hanks either. He often comes off a bit too sucky-sentimental for me. This week he does it again in director Steven Speilberg’s The Terminal .

Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, a traveller from a small (fake) Eastern European country who lands in New York to discover a coup broke out back home and his nation is in turmoil. His passport and entry visa are therefore invalid and confiscated by the strict and cruel Airport Supervisor played by Stanly Tucci.

Not allowed to enter America and unable to return home, Victor Navorski is forced to live off his wits in the airport terminal, where he learns English, makes friends, finds work and falls in love with Catherine Zeta-Jones. He accomplishes all of this while worrying for his homeland and battling the customs bureaucracy preventing him from entering New York City, something he deeply desires to do.

This movie isn’t terrible, Speilberg and Hanks are much too experienced for that, and it does portray the airport as a micro-representation of America as a whole, with its troublesome upper politics and bureaucratic nonsense as well as the low-level, blue collar good-hearted people that keep it running day in day out.

But The Terminal is a bit trite or cutesy and although you empathize with Victor Navorski and even laugh with him a few times, in the end, after 128 minutes, you’ve just watched a re-written and better version of Speilberg’s terrible Castaway where, instead of just mumbling to himself or a volleyball, Hanks actually mumbles to other people (in a thick accent) before he gets his way in the end. Still though for a summer movie The Terminal is at least somewhat unique. Nothing blows up and no one saves the world. But Spider-man drops June 30, hold your breath.

At Village 8 June 18-24: Terminal, Dodgeball, Garfield, Day After Tomorrow, Around the World in 80 Days, Stepford Wives, Chronicles of Riddick, Shrek 2, Harry Potter.

At Rainbow Theatre June 18-24: Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2.