Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are two of the creators of the hysterically funny "COPS" parody, "Reno 911", a show that's brilliant and yet, incredibly stupid. While the two have managed to mine a great deal of smart laughs out of the "Reno" concept, their success as screenwriters in other films - "Herbie: Fully Loaded", "The Pacifier", "Night at the Museum", does not inspire much confidence in "Balls of Fury", their latest screenwriting gig and Garant's second directorial effort.
The movie focuses on Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler), a former ping-pong phenom who now works as a tired Vegas lounge act. After being fired for kinda being responsible for a member of the audience having a heart attack, Daytona is asked by an FBI agent (George Lopez) to infiltrate the secret ping-pong tournaments run by criminal weapons dealer Mr. Feng (Christopher Walken), the man who killed Randy's father years ago.
Proving himself to be more than a little rusty, he's sent to Blind Master Wong (James Hong) and his niece, Maggie (Maggie Q) in order to train for the tournament. Before she's able to train Randy, she has to beat the daylights out of her current pupils, one of which was getting too handsy. So starts the training portion of the film, which has Randy attempting to play ping-pong with wooden spoons and the group going to some sort of underground ping-pong fight club where the most fierce player is a girl who looks to be about 8.
The film's main issue is the actor at the center of it. Fogler just isn't very funny, and wanders through the film like a Dollar Store version of Jack Black (see especially a deeply unfunny Def Leppard air guitar bit late in the film.) Maybe Fogel is a great theatre actor (he's apparently been nominated for Tony awards), but he seems like he's struggling on-screen. The other actors fare better, especially Christopher Walken, who seems like he's having a lot of fun as the evil Feng. Also amusing is Lennon, who plays an aggressive German player named Karl Wolfschtagg. Maggie Q is also as wonderful as ever, even in a thankless role.
"Balls of Fury" is a bizarre mix of Hong Kong film and sports parody, and while that had the potential to be great, the movie is only occasionally funny, as the movie relies too much on predictable, lowbrow slapstick. There's a few flashes of wit here - mainly in Walken's goofy effort - but not enough. The somewhat lackluster filming - this looks like a direct-to-TV movie - also makes a few otherwise decent jokes suffer.
"Balls of Fury" did have the potential to be a funny goof on sports films, but it's just merely okay. As underdog sports movies go, it's no "Kingpin".
VIDEO: "Balls of Fury" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality was a little uneven, as while sharpness and detail were generally respectable, some scenes could look soft and/or a little too dark. Some minor edge enhancement was spotted, as was a few traces of artifacting. However, the print appeared clean and colors looked bright and well-saturated.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was largely a forward-oriented comedy mix, aside from a few action sequences that provided a little bit of work for the rear speakers to do. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue sounded crisp and natural.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a 14-minute "making of" featurette and a featurette on the set's ball wrangler.
Final Thoughts: "Balls of Fury" did have the potential to be a funny goof on sports films, but a few too many jokes don't make it over the net. As underdog sports movies go, it's no "Kingpin". There's a few laughs and a couple of reasonably good performances here, and enough to get a slight rental recommendation for fans of the sport.
The Film C