Film Review – The Bourne Supremacy, Dodgeball: A True Underdog’s Story

Two Years Spent Scribbling In That Notebook
(Originally published in Inform Magazine, September 2004)

Whilst sitting watching The Bourne Supremacy a strange feeling of sympathy comes over me. A popular pastime since films got all stadium rock is the act of watching a sequel without watching the first film first. Most of the time this happens accidentally as you veg out in front of, say, Die Harder on the TV, but I’m sure there are people out there who actively pursue this strangely edifying hobby. After all, despite the filmmaker’s traditional efforts to not pay too much lip service to the previous film in a series, it can be quite a strange and unique experience.

I never did catch The Bourne Identity, so I’m sat there in the dark of the cinema, trying to make sense of what’s going on whilst scribbling my theories in a notebook. The weird thing is, that’s exactly what Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is doing, although the handwriting in his notebook is rather more childish than mine. His is more legible, though; I am in the dark, remember. Bourne’s comely Eurogirlfriend, played by Franka Potente, helpfully points out that he’s spent “two years scribbling in that notebook”, which is about as long as I’ve been doing this job.

I think Damon’s writing away because he’s lost his memory (“Who am I?” he pouts in the notebook), or maybe he never watched the first film either. But what’s the job he’s talking about? It’s got to be pretty cool, otherwise the claims to be an action film are going to be hard to live up to. ‘Once he was the greatest ice cream van driver in the Western Hemisphere. Then he lost his memory when he ate a double whippy too fast and got a headache. Can he regain what he lost?’ Thankfully, I think he used to be an assassin of some sort.

Okay, I’m now getting up to speed. So is the film, as we cut quickly between a Russian assassin killing a load of guys in Eurostonia (or wherever), right under the hard-nose of CIA operative Joan Allen, with Damon getting the self-same assassin on his tail in India (“we’re blown!” Damon risibly exclaims). I was quite impressed when Potente got killed in the first half hour, but I’m sure the impact would be even better if she were the star of the first film (just checked: she was).

Damon is now a hunk of burning vengeance, as is Allen who thinks Damon ‘blew’ her operation (oh dear). It’s all getting jolly exciting, but I’m distracted by two things: one is when Allen is confronted by her equally hard-nosed boss Brian Cox (“You’re in a big puddle of shit and you don’t have the shoes for it”) which just reminds me that the last time the two were in the same film was Manhunter, one of my all time faves. If you really want to know, Cox has aged horribly but his American accent’s better and Allen hasn’t changed a bit.

The other distraction is Damon’s nose. I must have missed when it changed quite so substantially, because you would have thought the fact the old button-ski-jump thing he had in Saving Private Ryan now looks a lot less distracting would have caused lots of earnest discussion on those celebrity-obsessed TV shows that are all there are to watch at 2am. It’s no good, this plot’s too complicated for me to cope being so distracted (another one is why it’s shot like a Lars Von Trier film) so let’s try something less intensive.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog’s Story is a lot simpler but is just as unsure of its identity. Once upon a time there was a time when all American comedies seemed to be a about a bunch of weird losers beating the odds and becoming heroes. Think of anything starring Dan Aykroyd or Chevy Chase if you really must. To American film executives the idea of a film just being funny wasn’t enough; it had to be heartwarming in some vaguely nauseating way. Which was why the last ten minutes of such films – where the losers celebrate their becoming winners with much high fives etc. – were about as fun to watch as fluffy puppy autopsies.

This trend thankfully died out. So why the hell is Dodgeball trying to revive it? Oh, it tries to be clever and all post-modern by pretending to take the long overdue piss out of such films, but it just can’t help fitting itself into the formula with effortless ease. It’s as if Chris Morris got so into taking the piss out the news that he actually started reporting it.

Dodgeball is very funny in places – mostly thanks to Ben Stiller having fun in the bad guy part and despite Vince Vaughn being rubbish in the Bill Murray-patented ‘warm-hearted sarcastic hero’ part – but it’s not good enough to transcend that vomitous final ten minutes where everything comes good for the losers. I feel the need to assassinate someone.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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