Balls of Fury
will score points with anyone who ever wished that Enter the Dragon
played out in the subterranean "underbelly of ping pong" instead of the world of martial arts. Tony Award-winner Dan Fogler
(The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
), joining the ranks of Jack Black
, Seth Rogen
, and Jonah Hill
as a schlub (romantic?) hero, stars as Randy Daytona, a Def Leppard-loving ping-pong wizard who, as a 12-year-old, was disgraced at the 1988 Olympics. Nineteen years later and gone to seed, he is reduced to performing a novelty act in Reno until an FBI Agent (George Lopez, and yes, at one point, he will proclaim, "Say hello to my little friend" a la Al Pacino in Scarface
) recruits him to infiltrate an underground ping pong tournament run by Feng (Christopher Walken
), the arch villain who killed Daytona's father. Co-written by Reno 911
colleagues Robert Ben Garant (who also directed) and Thomas Lennon (who costars as Daytona's taunting East Berlin rival), Balls of Fury
is hit and miss, but it fitfully kills with some ace performances, including Walken, bringing more cowbell, as Feng, resplendent in silks and red fingernails (his Christopher Walken impression, while perhaps not as uncanny as Kevin Spacey's or Jay Mohr's, is dead-on).
James Hong puts a wicked spin on the clichéd role of mentor, and action babe Maggie Q rocks as his niece. Look quick for David Koechner as hopeless entertainer Rick the Birdmaster, Patton Oswalt as an obnoxious early opponent, Kerri Kenney-Silver as a showgirl, and Diedrich Bader as one of Feng's imprisoned sex slaves (don't ask). With less go-for-the-groin humour than the title might indicate, Balls of Fury brings its A-game with some subversive bits of business, such as an ominous moment that is undercut when a menacing character is forced to re-enter the scene to ask for directions back to the highway. --Donald Liebenson
Dan Fogler stars as table tennis child prodigy and Def Leppard-devotee Randy Daytona, whose defeat at the hands of an East German (Thomas Lennon) during the 1988 Olympics forced him leave the world of table tennis competition in disgrace. Randy's life is a shambles until he gets recruited by a CIA agent (Barry Lopez) to infiltrate an Enter the Dragon
-style table tennis tournament (to the death), run by an evil triad leader (Christopher Walken). First Randy needs to get back in shape; enter James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China
) as the blind table tennis master Wang and Maggie Q as his sexy, kung fu-fighting niece.
While Balls of Fury
is a consistently funny comedy it also manages to slyly infuse some intelligence and compassion into its steady stream of genre spoofing and lowbrow crotch gags (similar in that sense to Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles
. Fogler has an engagingly scruffy underdog-style warmth and seems to really connect with the older pros like Walken and Hong; there's the sense everyone had a good time making this film, which carries over to the audience. Director Robert Ben Garant knows when to speed up the action and when to give his actors room to stretch out; the result is a generous spirit where all the cast is allowed to grab their share of the laughs.