This summer has already given us a movie peppered with the music of Europe (Hot Rod), so why not Def Leppard? One of the top bands of the 1980s finds their music sprinkled throughout Balls of Fury. I admit to being a continuing Lep fan from back in the day, and I found myself singing along to the tunes in the movie. Anyway, the movie is fun, in a very dumb way. It is not nearly as inspired as it seems to think it is, but the decidedly low-brow comedy did win me over. The movie turns out to be a pretty fun subversion of the Enter the Dragon story line. That is, if Bruce Lee was a ping-pong* champion rather than a martial artist.
At the 1988 Olympics Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) was prepared to be crowned the next king of ping-pong™, but the pressure got to him, he lost the match to Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon), his father was killed, and he became an overnight joke. Fast-forward to the present day and Daytona is working dinner theater off the Vegas strip. Daytona is found by FBI agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez) during a particularly lackluster performance. The government has designs on using his skills to gain access to a secret underground ping-pong™ tournament. The in for Daytona is that the man behind the tournament is named Feng (Christopher Walken), and happens to be the man responsible for the death of his father.
After a little convincing on Rodriguez's part, Daytona is brought on board. The first step is to get him back on the ping-pong™ circuit to win some tournaments and get Feng's attention. That doesn't go too well, so they enlist the aid of Master Wong (James Hong), a blind ping-pong™ instructor who teaches above his take-out restaurant. Here, Wong, along with his lovely niece Maggie (Maggie Q), set about imparting the skills that Daytona will need to get into, and win, the deadly tournament. Before long, our hero is on his way to the remote fortress location where the tournament is held. Here finds out firsthand just how deadly his fight will be.
Balls of Fury is not a great movie, but it is fun and knows that the more jokes it throws out, the more likely that some of them will stick. The makers also know how to make a successful spoof. Not to make it seem any better than it actually is, but watch this and then watch something like Epic Movie. Do you see the difference? In the Epic Movies of the world they attempt to make a film by stringing along bits of other movies in the hopes that something will stick and be funny. Now, compare that to Balls of Fury. They took one film, Enter the Dragon, used it for the framework and then peppered in other conventions of martial arts films, like the training sequences (a la The Karate Kid), and spoofs of other films worked into the Enter the Dragon framework. It works so much better; there is some logic and still room for some random comedy. Again, I am not trying to make this look like a great movie, but there is no denying that there is a pretty good spread of laughs and it is much more successful than other spoofs emanating from Hollywood these days.
The funny thing is, even when the jokes fall flat, the cast always seems to click. That is, except for George Lopez who plays it straight but is still a bit too bland for the role. I think someone like Luis Guzman may have been a bit better suited for the role. The surprise here would likely be the lead, Dan Fogler. At first glance, he looks like the guy you would sign when you can't get Jack Black, but is actually rather different.
He plays the underdog well and is adept at selling the groin shot, and could have a bright future on the big screen. The Tony award winner first moved to the big screen in a bit part in School for Scoundrels, and will next be seen in Good Luck Chuck. He is definitely a face to keep an eye on. Then you have Christopher Walken, who does Walken like only Walken can do in his role as Feng. The supporting cast is fleshed out with the Lovely Maggie Q as ping-pong™ talent and love interest, Thomas Lennon as the over-the-top German champion, and Aisha Tyler as Feng's assassin. Count in numerous cameos and bit parts from Jason Scott Lee, Diedrich Bader, Masi Oka, Terry Crews, and others, and you have a steady stream of jokes and familiar faces.
Robert Ben Garant directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Thomas Lennon. It is the second collaboration they have had on the big screen this year, following Reno 911! Miami. The duo are Reno veterans, also among the show's cast. Here, they do a halfway decent job at offering up some easy laughs in an ultimately dumb comedy. Every once in a while this is exactly what we need on the big screen. It is not nearly as inspired as Hot Rod, or relentlessly dumb and offensive (in a funny way) as the Reno flick, but it fills a hole that sorely needed filling: the dumb, sophomoric spoof.
Bottom line. There is no denying that this movie is funny; it does not all work, but you will laugh. Even the most cynical will find themselves laughing in spite of themselves. Honestly, who doesn't laugh at a crotch shot? Don't lie now. It is as easily forgettable as last Wednesday's breakfast, but it is fun while it lasts. A good way to end the summer season.
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