Sometimes you just want to cover a classic, you know? The Frat Pack has been around making movies for about 16 years. That is if you count The Cable Guy, which you totally should. Films with comedians like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, and Jack Black (to name only a few) have become go-to hits for people looking for movies that are simply story. There’s little drama to be found in these film and even less sincere conflict, but if they don’t split your side from all the nonstop laughter, you might need to check yourself for signs that you are a robot.
With that, we’re cracking into one of these bad boys, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story to be precise. In this commentary, we’ll hear Ben Stiller make jokey jokes every five minutes, Vince Vaughn will likely throw out sarcastic jabs and the occasional, goofy giggle, and writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber will hopefully be talking about the movie at hand. Regardless of their roles here, there’s little doubt this commentary track will bring us loads of laughs, so let’s get started shall we?
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Commentators: Ben Stiller (actor, producer), Vince Vaughn (actor), Rawson Marshall Thurber (writer, director), Fox’s apparent guidelines for mentioning only Fox movies
- “You guys should go back to talking about the NCAA football game you guys are obsessed with,” says Stiller kicking things off. Vaughn wonders if they’ll get comped gifts if they talk about the game, but Still cuts in saying they should only talk about Fox movies. It’s in their guidelines for commentary tracks.
- Stiller says the fat version of White Goodman seen in the 1987 photo was digitally enhanced. He also mentions the weight the character picks up at the end was actually him. Thurber refers to it as “reverse Castaway style.”
- Vaughn points out that the photo of White Goodman was taken in 1987, but the character says that was him 6 years ago. Vaughn questions if the movie takes place in 1993. “Yeah,” says Thurber. “That’s not clear?” The writer/director says he liked the way the character says he lost 600 pounds in 6 years. He also guesses this makes the film a period piece. Dodgeball, more complex than Primer.
- Vaughn’s character was supposed to pull up at his gym near the beginning of the film. The vehicle he was driving broke down on set, though. The guys pushing him up to the gym was a quick on-set fix that the director of photography came up with. “I think it illustrates Peter La Fleur better than if he would have just driven up,” says Thurber.
- Thurber compares Stephen Root‘s character to Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters, to which Stiller points out he’s violated Fox’s guidelines. Stiller also mentions Root was hilarious in Office Space. “I was gonna mention that, but I didn’t know if it was in the guidelines,” says Vaughn. Stiller points out that it’s a Fox film, so all good.
- Thurber wrote the two leads, White Goodman and Peter La Fleur, with Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in mind. Stiller jokes that his character’s original name was White Stiller. Justin Long‘s character was also written for him, as Thurber thought he was hilarious in Galaxy Quest. Not a Fox movie, but he’s totally right.
- The Martha Johnstone flashback with Long’s character was originally much cruder. Instead of just falling on top of Long’s character, she fell in such a way that his hand became stuck in her rectum. “It was a little too much,” says Thurber.
- Alan Tudyk, who plays Steve the Pirate, told both Vaughn and Thurber that when he first read the script he knew they had a hit, but they had to lose the pirate character. He didn’t think the character made any sense. “He said the same thing about I, Robot,” says Stiller. It’s a Fox movie, so the guidelines are still being followed.
- In an early draft of the script, Peter La Fleur had inherited his gym from an uncle, paralleling how White Goodman built Globo Gym. There were also more scenes with some of the Average Joe’s Gym patrons, a few of who had previously worked at Globo Gym. These scenes were cut to keep the movie from being a Greek epic.
- Vaughn came up with the line “You had me at blood and semen” but aimed to get the line cut completely. He didn’t feel his character would be that on board with the dodgeball plan to save the gym that early in the story.
- Stiller based the hairstyle for White Goodman on Patrick Swayze from Roadhouse. “It’s this super quaffed power mullet,” says Thurber. We don’t care what it is. It’s born out of Roadhouse, so it’s gold in our book.
- The dodgeball instructional video was the first thing shot on the film. Thurber was nervous about sending the dailies from the first day to Fox, since the aged style of the instructional video is much more stilted and dull than how the rest of the movie was to look. He made sure to preface with this before sending them along.
- Stiller mentions the reaction at the premier when La Fleur pegs the Girl Scout with the ball. Evidently, the audience was shocked at this level of violence against children. “Had I known it was gonna be that big, I would have had you guys hit the Girl Scouts a lot more,” says Thurber.
- In an early draft of the script, Fran, the Russian member of Purple Cobras, was going to turn out to be a dodgeball-playing sex robot. Stiller was one of the few who convinced Thurber to cut this subplot out. He felt the robot story was too ridiculous even for this movie.
- Thurber admits to accidentally hitting Justin Long in the head, cutting his eyebrow, with the wrench. “Let’s be honest,” says Vaugh, “you hit a lot of people with a lot of things.” He does mention later the wrenches were made out of rubber, but tell that to Justin Long’s eyebrow.
- The scene of Stephen Root trying to race across a road in heavy traffic was added during production. Thurber felt the training montage needed to be longer, and Fox was on board enough with the project to drop the extra money to get the extra scene shot.
- The scene where White Goodman is caught shoving a slice of pizza down his pants was heavily altered from its original version. “How did you actually think it was gonna work?” asks Stiller to the director, who explains he thinks the scene is really funny. He also admits that it might “freak some people out.” Originally the character was watching obesity porn and it was much clearer exactly what he was doing with that pizza slice. He certainly wasn’t going to eat it. That’s for sure.
- The dodgeball dancers had tons more footage shot around them, including wearing different colored outfits – Thurber mentions them wearing blue and black for different shots – and a stripper pole that comes out of their dancing area. The director also mentions they have footage of the dancing area essentially turning into a shower scene, but we can only guess if this was ever meant for the finished film.
- David Hasselhoff appearing as the coach of the German team wasn’t a plan until a few days before they were to shoot that particular scene. Stunt coordinator Alex Daniels knew the Hoff personally and asked Thurber if he wanted him for the role. The director jumped at the chance.
- The colors the Average Joes wear were chosen because of their similarity to the colors worn by the team in Hoosiers. The director of that film, David Anspaugh, had worked with Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller previously, Rudy and Fresh Horses, respectively, and visited the Dodgeball set as well as the premiere of the film.
- Stiller remembers not many of the industry people having a reaction to Patches, the coach played by Rip Torn, dying suddenly in the film. He expected them to be shocked, but no one made a big deal out of it.
- Thurber very nearly deleted the joke about the briefcase with $100,000 in it looking a lot different than what you might expect. He even had the joke marked for deletion but felt he could take it out later if it didn’t work. Even during shooting he wasn’t convinced it was a good joke and shot a different version of the scene where the briefcase was full of money. What helped it, he feels, was that he rewrote White Goodman’s monologue to have it make more sense.
- The guy who bumps into Steve the pirate and the bartender in the scene right before that were both played by the same guy. He was a friend of Thurber’s who the director found a part for – well, two parts – in the film. Stiller jokes that he should have at least spaced the scenes apart more. Nepotism knows nothing of film structure. Likewise, the director himself plays three different parts.
- Getting Lance Armstrong was also a late decision in the film’s pre-production. Stiller had recently read his book and they were trying to figure out a way to make Peter’s switch back to loyalty to his team more believable. “Who’s the most inspiring guy right now on the planet that he could run into?” asks Stiller. He and Thurber came up with the idea to get Armstrong separately and almost at the same time.
- Stiller points out what a big William Shatner fan he is, to which Vaughn mentions Stiller’s production company, Red Hour Films, is a nod to a Star Trek episode. “I don’t really like to advertise that,” says Stiller. So we will.
- Evidently, Chuck Norris choppered in to film his cameo, which is something everyone should know.
- Originally, when White Goodman gets a foul for hitting Kate Veatch in the face after she’s been eliminated, there was a whole scene with a Shame Tribe where he gets a light clicked on over his head with everyone in the arena booing him. This was cut for pacing.
- In the original sudden death match, Peter did the dodgeball dance he had learned in training earlier in the film. This was cut for time but also because Thurber wasn’t sure if it would work visually. The Average Joes also lost in the original ending with Steve the Pirate, who had been arrested after invading the Treasure Island ship, swinging in with his stolen loot. This explains why the money at the end of the film is in a treasure chest.
Best in Commentary
“By the way, Fox makes the funniest comedies out there, folks. Fox means quality.” -Ben Stiller
“I still don’t know what a moose knuckle means.” -Ben Stiller
“Is there anything in this movie that would make it not 1993?” -Vince Vaughn
Much of the Dodgeball commentary is devoted to the actors and director gushing over their cast and crew, not a new thing with commentaries but it’s on full throttle here. There’s still plenty of room for insight and anecdotes from the set. Much of the actual insight involves deleted scenes and changed scenes from early drafts of the script. Many of the deleted scenes Thurber brings up are included on this disc.
All in all, this is a good commentary, even with Vaughn cutting in on several different occasions to explain the drama built around the film’s conclusion. Still, all three commentators do a fine job bouncing between the different types of information they could be relaying here, much more interesting than 90 minutes of nonstop jokes or, God forbid, impressions.