The Films of Rawson Marshall Thurber
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (June 17/04)
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story casts Ben Stiller as White Goodman, a gym owner trying to strong-arm his closest competitor out of business. Said competitor, Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), is ready to give up and give into Goodman when his regulars come up with the idea to participate in a Dodgeball tournament. There's not much here worth taking seriously, and that's exactly why Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story works as well as it does. Thurber fills the movie with oddball and inexplicable moments of humor, and, as a result, some viewers will likely be scratching their heads wondering just what's supposed to be so funny. It's clear that Thurber's been influenced by shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, given his predilection for obscure celebrity cameos and quick cutaways to a recalled event. The film's cast has a lot of fun with the material, though none are quite able to keep up with Stiller and his antics. Vaughn is very good as the film's hero, effectively stepping into the shoes of a leading man for the first time outside of a drama. It wouldn't be a Vaughn performance without sarcastic comments and witty asides, and the actor certainly doesn't disappoint on that level. The supporting roles have been filled by an eclectic mix of performers, including Rip Torn as a grizzled coach and Alan Tudyk as an athlete that thinks he's a pirate. As good as they are, the film's scene stealers are undoubtedly Gary Cole and Jason Bateman as mismatched announcers (Cole plays a legitimate broadcaster, while Bateman's character seems to be on drugs). The bottom line is that Dodgeball is just silly fun, and it's also one of the more entertaining films to be released this summer.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
We're the Millers (September 15/13)
We're the Millers follows Jason Sudeikis' David Clark, a small-time drug dealer, as he reluctantly agrees to smuggle a huge shipment of marijuana for his affable boss (Ed Helms' Brad Gurdlinger), with the film detailing the over-the-top wackiness that ensues after David hires three people (Jennifer Aniston's Rose, Emma Roberts' Casey, and Will Poulter's Kenny) to pose as his straight-laced family. Filmmaker Rawson Marshall Thurber, working from a script by Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, and John Morris, has infused the early part of We're the Millers with a pervasively appealing feel that's perpetuated by Sudeikis' charismatic turn and a smattering of laugh-out-loud funny moments, and it does go without saying that the movie's novel premise is initially employed to strikingly, irresistibly entertaining effect. (Aniston's wet blanket of a performance is consequently, at the outset, not as problematic as one might've feared.) It's only as We're the Millers progresses into its midsection that one's interest first begins to wane, as the narrative adopts an increasingly stagnant feel that's compounded by an emphasis on hackneyed, uninteresting elements (eg the obligatory yet boring romance between Sudeikis and Aniston's respective characters). The less-than-subtle bent of the paint-by-numbers script - ie Sudeikis' David learns a series of lessons by movie's end - ensures that We're the Millers peters out significantly in its rather endless final stretch, which confirms the movie's place as a promising comedy that ultimately succumbs to the worst and most needless conventions that Hollywood has to offer.