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You Can Vote For Pedro and Ben Stiller

You Can Vote For Pedro and Ben Stiller

I’m hoping to bridge a gap this weekend, a bridge between the arthouse crowd and the multiplex crowd. Because, I think this weekend proves more than most that the two audiences are more similar than we think…
This weekend, there’s a very interesting and unintentional battle at the box office. It’s the battle of two comedies that are being both praised and criticized for being “dumb.” One is a film festival-certified independent release (Napoleon Dynamite) and the other is a “Frat Pack” certified Hollywood release (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story). Yet, both of them have received equal amounts of praise and disdain for their supposedly “mindless” brand of humor and characters with low IQs. Some may argue that it’s a travesty to compare these two films… but is it, really? The real difference, to me, between these two films is one had more of a budget and more stars than the other did. I think the differences end there.
This is more an issue of which film will be able to stand above the critical conflict and live on as a cult classic. Both films are vying for such a distinction, and maybe there is room for both, but there is a slight difference in their prospects. Napoleon is going for the indie-minded crowd, while Dodgeball is trying for something a bit more mainstream. But, in the end, the films are rather similar.
They take oddball characters with serious self-esteem issues and throw them into a cruel world that they must conquer against all odds. In his review of Napoleon, Rogert Ebert writes “We can laugh at comedies like this for two reasons: Because we feel superior to the characters, or because we pity or like them.” I would argue that both Napoleon and Dodgeball are worth laughing at because we pity and like the people on the screen. It’s hard to enjoy a film when you feel “superior” to the protagonists. It would just feel like a waste of time. I’m hard-pressed right now to think of a successful example of a film being funny because you think the hero is inferior. I mean, Napoleon Dynamite features probably some of the most heroic and triumphant and charismatic characters in theaters right now. The characters in Dodgeball? Not heroes, by any sense of the word, but definitely people I would love to grab a beer with.
So, then, are these two films really about “dumb” characters? No, they’re about real people with sometimes cartoonish qualities. In other words, you shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying Dodgeball, especially if you’re proud of enjoying such a like-minded film as Napoleon Dynamite.

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