Starring: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, James Hong
Written by: Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant
Film marketing groups really need to re-examine their methods, especially when it comes to a film like Balls of Fury. Whole scenes can be constructed around punch lines and it’s a real shame when the marketing side doesn’t have enough faith in the film and reveals those gags to draw audiences. Such is the case here; so anyone who’s seen the previews will feel cheated several times throughout the movie.
In Balls of Fury we follow ping pong virtuoso and Olympic hopeful Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) from his auspicious beginnings to his ignominious downfall and then through his trek toward redemption. This classic Bildungsroman journey is weaved into a screwball spoof of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. Randy is recruited by FBI Agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez) to infiltrate the mysterious Feng’s compound and see what bad things he’s up to. Along the way, Randy teams up with ping pong master Wong (James Hong) and his equally talented niece Maggie (Maggie Q).
To enjoy this film, you really need to dial into its humor, which relies heavily on spoofing bits of other films. If you don’t have a robust knowledge of the source material, you may be left scratching your head, wondering why snatching (and squishing) a cricket is funny. The film also relies on the audience to find people taking ping pong so seriously funny. While this worked for Dodgeball – since you don’t really see or hear about dodgeball competitions – it doesn’t quite hit for Balls of Fury since ping pong is played competitively. Heck, it’s an Olympic sport. The creators did their best to up the ante by launching ping pong into absurdity with back alley competitions and truly “sudden death” matches, but for many people it won’t be enough.
Also, some plot elements aren’t very satisfying. For instance, early on in the film, Randy loses to an arrogant German whom the audience expects to be Randy’s nemesis throughout the film. For the most part he is, but when Randy finally gets his chance to deal with him, someone else gets to the German first. Furthermore, Randy is constantly ridiculed about a certain point regarding Disneyland, which is never resolved, leaving the audience with a feeling of missed opportunity.
The acting from all the players is serviceable throughout, considering the script. Dan Fogler makes for an unlikely lead, but his straight man performance is remarkably good, although he does seem to channel Jack Black at times. Christopher Walken, whose reveal in the trailers totally kills one of the film’s gags, once again plays the Christopher Walken character, which is typically the evil goof-ball. While I’d normally criticize Walken for mailing in his performance, it’s strangely at home here in this screwball comedy.
Balls of Fury is well worth your time if you’re looking for some decent laughs. Just catch up on your Bruce Lee, David Carradine and maybe a little Indiana Jones and Scarface before you watch it.