20th Century Fox's "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" aimed low and took home the prize on top of the weekend box office.

The raunchy comedy, starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller as rival gym owners, knocked out the competition to the tune of $30 million over the last three days.

"Dodgeball" fared much better than Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal," which finished in a disappointing second place, and Disney's "Around The World In 80 Days," which barely made $6 million since its Wednesday opening.

Vaughn stars as Peter LaFleur, owner of Average Joe's health club, who's up to his neck in debt, mainly due to the fact he hasn't collected membership fees from his few clients. As the bank, and its lovely representative, Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor), inform LaFleur that his club is facing foreclosure, he states, "I thought all of those notices were warnings."

Looking to capitalize on LaFleur's misfortune is White Goodman (Stiller), owner of Globo Gym, a multimillion-dollar fitness emporium conveniently located across the street. Goodman, a former overeater who underwent a massive fitness transformation, supplements his ego by surrounding himself with subservient body-builders. His overbearing attitude manages to sway Veatch, who also is Globo's bank representative, towards assisting LaFleur in his efforts.

Faced with raising $50,000 within 30 days, LaFleur receives loyal support from his merry men amongst surviving gym members. They include high school nerd/wannabe male cheerleader Justin (Justin Long); middle-aged Gordon (Stephen Root), who thrives on reading Obscure Sports Quarterly; Average Joe employee Owen (Joel David Moore), who's onging for love in all the wrong places; under-utilized Dwight (Chris Williams), and Steve (Alan Tudyk), who literally dresses like a pirate and constantly says "Garrrrrr!"

After a failed attempt at earning money via a car wash, it's Gordon's idea from his favorite magazine to form a dodgeball team, which would enter the national dodgeball championship in Las Vegas. The team gains insight on the sport via an old dodgeball documentary film featuring dodgeball legend Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn), to which he comes out of retirement to lend the rookies his expertise.

While from his wheelchair, O'Houlihan teaches the team the "Five Ds", which are "dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge." He also puts them through their paces with such words of wisdom as "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball" and "If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball."

After surviving a hilarious regional playoff, the Average Joes are on their way to Las Vegas, where they soon discover they'll be competing against the Purple Cobras of Globo Gym, captained by Goodman and featuring four huge musclemen, and one Soviet Republic woman's player (Missi Pyle).

The action becomes fast and furious, along with some off-to-the-side drama, which leads to the ultimate face-off at the end of the tournament.

"Dodgeball" is funnier than the movie trailer has portrayed it. Granted, there is more to this film than plenty of people getting hit in the face and chest with numerous items. The training methods of O'Houlihan are hilarious, along with Vaughn playing LaFleur with typical dryness, landing the right funny line at appropriate times. Be aware of a host of cameos, including William Shatner, David Hasselhoff, and Lance Armstrong.

However, with four films already under his belt this year, Stiller's oversaturation at the box office is starting to wear on the public's nerves. His performance as Goodman is WAY over the top here. Yes, Stiller had a say-so in some of the direction with this film and he is supposed to be the bad guy in this movie. But he could've reined it in a bit, not just saying non-funny lines just to have something to say. Unfortunately, Stiller doesn't get hit with a dodgeball quite enough for my own taste. For those who left during the credits, Goodman reappears in a throwaway gross segment that simply should've been thrown away.

Despite Stiller's performance, there are plenty of laughs and character development that makes this one of the year's funniest films.

Simply one gym dandy, "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" is a solid hit (name the body part) at three and three quarters out of four stars.

"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" is rated PG-13 for rude and sexual humor, and language. Running time is 1 hour, 37 minutes.

Last week's No. 1, "Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban" flew down to the third spot, conjuring up $17.4 million to its three-week total of $190.3 million.

DreamWorks' "Shrek 2" isn't going far, far away just yet, tumbling to No. 4 with $13.6 million added to its impressive total of $378.3 million. It now ranks as the sixth highest grossing movie of all time, passing "The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King."

Vin Diesel's "The Chronicles Of Riddick" nose-dived from No. 2 to No. 7, taking in $8.3 million - $41.4 million in 10 days.

"The Day After Tomorrow" is thawing out from No. 6 to No. 8 with $6.8 million to its chilly month-long total of $166.7 million.

Warner Bros.' "Troy" rounds out the top ten while adding $1.7 million to its six-week run of $128.9 million.

For more information contact Regal Cinemas Marketplace 24, 180 Mill Road, Oaks, at 610-666-6697.

Dennis J. Wright can be reached at dwright@phoenixvillenews.com.

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