Balls of Fury
I have to admit, I didn't
have much in the way of expectations when I went into Balls of Fury.
A madcap comedy about ping pong? How good can it be?
Turns out, pretty damned good.
Oh sure, it runs out of steam in the last half hour like it seems every comedy
made these days but when it was working, Balls of Fury made me laugh as
much as any movie so far this year. It's smart, subversive, slimy, silly
and undeniably pretty damned hilarious.
This is doubly surprising
because it comes from Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, the
writing/directing team behind arguably the worst comedy of this year
Reno 911! Miami.
Balls of Fury makes
up for that debacle, though. Well, almost...
Apparently the movie is a
parody of the old Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon, about a martial
artist who is approached by the FBI to use his skills infiltrate a master
villain's deadly tournament.
Enter the Dragon, so I am not
mining a deep vein of satire that the average viewer would never catch up
on. In fact, I probably completely missed a lot of genre-specific
jokes that may kill with Bruce Lee fans. (For example, I'm sure there
is some deeper meaning in the supporting role by a nearly unrecognizable
Jason Scott Lee who played the martial arts master in Dragon - The
Bruce Lee Story. I'm just not sure what it is, unless it is simply
the surface joke of having a guy who played Bruce Lee in a movie which
spoofs Bruce Lee.) Now, I am no fan of martial
arts films. I've never seen
Dan Fogler who is pretty
much a movie newcomer here but is coming off of an acclaimed Broadway run in
The 25th Annual Putnam
County Spelling Bee
slob appeal, a goofy-funny sense of delivery and a willingness to let no
gross-out humor sink too low. He plays Randy Daytona, a former child
ping pong prodigy who was disgraced at twelve-years-old and is now reduced
to being an overweight lounge act who does ping pong stunts at a Nevada
Sitcom star George Lopez
has fun with the straight man role of the Fed who assigned to help Daytona
in the case. Maggie Q is sexy and funny in the love interest role
not that you believe her hard-boiled ping-pong expert would give Daytona the
time of day for even a second.
Christopher Walken is very
funny in the role of the bad guy Feng and yet a weird dynamic comes into
play. Walken has been lampooned so often and so thoroughly by
comedians over the years that when he actually does it himself it seems a
little like overkill. We've seen it all before, even when it wasn't
coming from the performer himself. Still, no one can deliver lines
like "I bid you toodles" with more poker-faced glee and malevolence.
Shockingly, the funniest
person here is elderly Asian character actor James Hong (perhaps best known
as the maitre d' in the classic Seinfeld Chinese restaurant episode).
Playing a blind and slightly foul-mouthed ping pong instructor, Hong
consistently steals every single scene from his more well-known comic
The story is just tweaking
a series of movie clichιs, and yet the jokes are flowing steadily enough
that you are willing to overlook this fact. In the end, once you get to
the evil lair sequence like all evil lair sequences ever (and there are
tons of them in movie history) the movie comes to a crashing halt.
However, by now the movie has earned the right for a slow patch. It's
too bad that the movie runs out of momentum so close to the finishing line.
Luckily, the laughs that preceded this part makes it a winner on any
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: August 23, 2007.