|Balls of Fury (2007)
Dan Fogler, George Lopez, Maggie Q, Christopher Walken, James Hong
Director: Robert Ben Garant
“Balls of Fury” is one of those monkeys-with-typewriters kind of movies, the inevitable result of someone watching “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” and “Beerfest” enough times for a synapse to finally fire in the back of his oxygen-deprived brain that says, “Literal sudden death ping pong.” Does the world need another ‘non-athletic sport becomes high-stakes battle’ movie? Probably not, though the world would have made room for “Balls of Fury” had the filmmakers given us enough reason to.
Dan Fogler stars as Randy Daytona, a onetime Olympic table tennis prodigy who’s now reduced to performing his ping pong skills for bored dinner theater patrons. Randy is approached by a federal agent (George Lopez) who wants Randy to play his way back into form so he can enter an exclusive, top secret ping pong tournament hosted by a notorious Japanese crime lord, and ping pong fanatic, named Feng (Christopher Walken. Yes, that Christopher Walken). Feng also happens to be the man that had Randy’s father killed when he was a child, so Randy is up for the task, but he needs the guidance of the blind Master Wong (James Hong), plus the love of the Master’s niece Maggie (Maggie Q), to whip him back into shape.
The amount of enjoyment you will receive from this movie is in direct proportion to how hard you laughed at the part where Christopher Walken plays a Japanese crime lord. If you find that funny, then you’ve successfully suspended disbelief to a level where you can potentially enjoy this movie, since God knows it will take a lot to get audiences to swallow the movie’s lesser qualities, not the least of which is Fogler as a leading man. I can only assume that having Maggie Q play Fogler’s love interest is proof that the writers/monkeys are in on the joke, but the truth is that had those writers/monkeys, “The State” alums Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, worked a little harder on their script, they would have landed Jack Black, the man who was clearly Number One on their wish list, to play Randy. I’ll buy Jack Black landing Maggie Q. Fogler, not so much.
Besides the non-casting of Black (smart move, JB), there are issues with, well, the entire second half of the movie. The tournament itself is rather dull compared to the training sequences, and the espionage aspect of the story is laughable. The final showdown between Randy and Feng feels like a tribute to the video game scene from “Never Say Never Again,” the worst Bond movie ever made. Why would you rip something off the worst Bond movie ever made?
There was a good bad movie to be had here, but Lennon and Garant gave up on “Balls of Fury” before it had barely begun. What every writer should remember, even when they’re making a movie about a Def Leppard-loving has-been ping pong player, is that even bad movies need good stories.
The single-disc release of “Balls of Fury” is about as dull as you’d expect. Seven deleted scenes (including an alternate ending) lead the pack, but none of them are especially pertinent to the story, while the 13-minute making of featurette “Balls Out” fails to cover the one aspect of the film that actually begs for attention: the CGI ping-pong. Rounding out the extras is a short gag about the film’s “ball wrangler” (“Under the Balls”) who’s looking for her lost blue balls. Oi vey!