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Overall Rating
2.36

Awesome: 2.56%
Worth A Look: 2.56%
Average48.72%
Pretty Bad: 20.51%
Total Crap: 25.64%

5 reviews, 9 user ratings


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Balls of Fury
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Some Balls Indeed"
3 stars

In the hours leading up to the screening of “Balls of Fury,” I watched back-to-back-to-back a film with Michael Douglas playing a wacky old codger, a film involving a bunch of women who form a book club dedicated to the works of Jane Austen and a film involving Jet Li and Jason Statham trying to blow the crap out of each other for two solid hours. In other words, I was pretty much in the most receptive mood possible for a brainless and cheerfully idiotic comedy pitched somewhere below the lowest common denominator and with “Balls of Fury,” that is exactly what I got. I can’t say that it is some kind of comedy classic or that it even rises above the classification of “fitfully amusing” but I will say that I found myself laughing more often than I might have imagined possible from a slob comedy about the treacherous world of ping-pong written by the dopes responsible for “Reno 911.”

The plot of the film, to use the word promiscuously, is little more than a vague pastiche on the premise of the Bruce Lee classic “Enter the Dragon” with ping-pong serving as a substitute for martial arts. In a prologue set during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, we are introduced to our hero, young Randy Daytona, a pong prodigy who chokes during his match with the evil East German Karl Wolfschtagg, humiliates himself in front of the entire world and inadvertently causes the death of his own father at the hands of the depraved and unseen arch-criminal Feng. 19 years later, Randy (Dan Fogler) is a down-and-out wreck who does ping-pong tricks in Vegas (not the kind you may recall Winona Ryder performing in “South Park”) for audiences who still tease him about his infamous flame-out. There, he is recruited by FBI Agent Rodriguez (George Lopez) for a top-secret mission to bring down Feng once and for all by getting Randy to infiltrate his heavily guarded compound in order to take part in his yearly ping-pong tournament so that he can gather enough evidence to bring him down for good.

The only hitch in the plan is that after 19 years without competing, Randy is more than a bit rusty and so he is sent to the venerable and blind Master Wong (James Hong) to train under him and niece Maggie (Maggie Q at her most drool-worthy) in a series of scenes in which he gets hit in the head and groin repeatedly. Sadly, the notion of a venerable master training a common round-eye raises the ire of the underground ping-pong circuit in Chinatown and so Randy is forced to defend Wong’s honor in a match against the most feared local opponent, the merciless Dragon. Randy triumphs and is invited to Feng’s tournament where he discovers that a.) Feng is played by none other than Christopher Walken, b.) one of his competitors will be the same East German that he faced in the Olympics long ago and c.) that when Fend says that the matches are “sudden death,” he means it.

If you can believe it, “Balls of Fury” is actually sillier and more idiotic than its premise might suggest. It is less a film than a series of barely-connected skits chock-full of the same kind of aggressively juvenile and borderline offensive humor that we have seen before in a million previous bonehead comedies. I didn’t find any of this stuff to be particularly hilarious and I can’t imagine that you will either, unless the idea of a guy shoving chopsticks up an enemy’s nostrils and then continuing to eat with them strikes you as irresistibly amusing. That said, every once in a while, something genuinely amusing creeps in from the edges of the screenplay from Thomas Lennon (who also plays the evil East German) & Ben Garant (who also directed). None of the bits would sound particularly amusing if I were to relate them to you right now but the combination of the weirdo dialogue and the incongruous situations occasionally inspires some big laughs–I couldn’t exactly tell you what happens during the underground tournament sequence that is funny but I will tell you that I was laughing my head off through pretty much the entire sequence. While the film as a whole isn’t particularly funny, I was somewhat relieved to discover that there were a few scenes sprinkled throughout that didn’t know that.

And then there is Christopher Walken, who only shows up for the second half of the film and effectively hijacks the remaining running time with another one of his patented bizarro comedic turns. The material that he has been given is, like the rest of the film, hardly inspired but he knows how to deliver a line with the kind of off-kilter gusto that magically transforms lines as routine and uninspired as “How’s my cowl?” and “I bid you toodles” into laugh-getters. Of course, we all know by this point that Walken could do a role like this in his sleep (and for all I know, he did) and knock it out of the park and that begs the question of why he would bother to waste his time, talent and energy on something so fundamentally silly. My guess is that 27 years ago, Walken tried out for the role of Ming the Merciless in the Dino De Laurentiis remake of “Flash Gordon” and when he lost it to Max Von Sydow, it caused a hurt that no amount of wealth, fame, power or cowbell could hope to heal. When he received this script, I suspect that he realized that the role of Feng would offer him the closest opportunity to show the world his conception of Ming and decided that he would take it for that very reason. Well, either that or he wanted to show that his appearances in the likes of “Joe Dirt” and “Kangaroo Jack” were no flukes and that he really will appear in virtually anything as long as the check clears.

Make no mistake, “Balls of Fury” is a slipshod comedy that doesn’t know a good idea when it has one–having treated us to the gorgeous spectacle of Maggie Q (whom you’ll recall from “Live Free or Die Hard” earlier this summer) in the first half, the film inexplicably keeps her off-screen for virtually all of the second–and spends too much time and attention on the bad ones (such as a bit involving Feng’s army of sensual concubines who don’t quite come as advertised). However, I will admit that when a funny bit does occasionally surface, it is usually really, really funny. There aren’t enough of those bits to make it worth forking over the full price for admission but if you came across it on cable one day or decided to slip in after seeing another film at the multiplex, you could find worse ways to kill 90 minutes and who knows how many brain cells.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15546&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/30/07 00:51:09
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User Comments

4/08/09 marees just saw overnight on HBO. Had a great time and laugh. It really rocks 5 stars
11/29/08 PAUL SHORTT A TASTELESS ONE-JOKE SKETCH THAT GOES ON FOREVER 1 stars
5/14/08 Matt Could have been something but ends up just silly and barely worthy of even a giggle. 2 stars
3/22/08 Pamela White just too stupid to sit through 1 stars
10/24/07 Sandre Bullock's Oriole Are Chinese people really as racist as this movie depicts them to be?!? 2 stars
10/24/07 William Goss Good for more snickers than chuckles, and only a handful of those, to be honest. 3 stars
10/23/07 Plaster of Paris Hilton One of those good-in-a-messy-sort-of-way flicks 4 stars
9/09/07 Russ This one is just stupid. 1 stars
9/05/07 robert moore i want a refund! this is not a movie! avoid at all cost 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Dec-2007

UK
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Australia
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