Balls of Fury
As anyone who read my review of "Hot Rod," or checked out my all-time top 50 which includes "Pootie Tang" (and is located directly below this post- CHECK IT OUT!) knows, I love me a good dumb comedy. Sure most dumb comedies are garbage, but the good ones (i.e., "Dodgeball," "Blades of Glory," "Dumb and Dumber") are sources of never ending joy for me. So I went into "Balls of Fury" with great hope. After all it was written by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant of "Reno 911!," one of the funniest shows on television in recent years. It's got a ridiculous premise that sounded funny to me. A former ping-pong star who's fallen from grace is working for the FBI to infiltrate the world of illegal underground table tennis. Should be a good time, right?
"Balls" starts out funny enough (at least the first scene or two). Twelve year-old ping-pong prodigy Randy Daytona is destined for gold at the 1988 summer Olympics. Unfortunately he's going head to head with the uber-intense East German Karl Wolfschtagg (Lennon). Feeling the pressure from his father (Robert Patrick), Randy loses and embarrasses himself in front of the whole world. His father is then killed by the order of a man named Feng.
In the present, Randy (Dan Fogler) is a Vegas lounge act, that is until he is fired for accidentally giving a crowd member a heart attack. He is immediately drafted into FBI service by Agent Rodriguez (George Lopez) in order to capture Feng. On his way there he must train with Master Wong (James Hong) and Wong's niece Maggie ("Live Free or Die Hard's" Maggie Q). Once he passes the tests they move into Feng's tournament of death and discover that Feng does not in fact look like "Star Trek's" George Takei. He actually looks just like Christopher Walken.
"Balls of Fury," under the direction of Garant, never manages to take off. A few bits made me chuckle here and there but the only thing that really made me laugh hard was Patton Oswalt's brief appearance. His ode to "The Warriors" is the funniest thing in the movie and almost no one will get it. For the most part the set-ups are not clever or imaginative and the payoffs either lack punch or are going for very cheap laughs (which admittedly did sort of work for me once or twice). As for Walken, enough already with the kooky comedy schtick. It worked really well when we didn't expect it from him, but now it's as if he wants people to forget that he really is a complete actor. As much as I love hearing him say, "I gotta have more cowbell!" I really hope that he is known for more than that. Here he's really just a caricature of the persona he's carved out for himself in recent years.
I couldn't bring myself to hate this movie. Fogler (whom I'd never seen before) is likable and I think given the right script he could carry a comedy. But I couldn't bring myself to like "Balls of Fury" either. Rent "Pootie Tang" instead. 4/10.