Balls of Fury


Year 2007

Starring

Christopher Walken  as  Feng
James Hong as Wong
Dan Fogler as Randy Daytona
George Lopez as Rodriguez
Maggie Q as Maggie
 
Director - Robert Ben Garant
Screenwriters - Robert Ben Garant  
  - Thomas Lennon

Comedies these days are few and far between. A lot of "send-ups" are really boring. They're also limited to Will Farrel, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and the Wayans brothers. I know I'm in a minority here, but I don't find Will Farrel amusing. Even though he was the highest paid "actor" in Hollywood in 2007, I don't even want to see him in a movie. But, I digress...

Based on the title, you'd think that this would be a send-up of ping pong movies. But, considering the dearth of ping pong movies, there wouldn't be a lot of material to draw from. Instead, it's a lampoon of Kung-Fu and 007 movies. And it hits the mark more often than it misses.

If you're expecting to see a lot of Christopher Walken as the evil Feng, you'll be disappointed. He's only in the movie from about the half-way point onward. Still, his time on the screen is excellent. You can tell he's having a good time. That's one of the things I like about watching Christopher Walken. He's done his time, put in his work, and achieved notoriety for the right reasons. Now, he's enjoying the fruits of his efforts and it shows. He practically winks at the camera. He's glad you're watching and this exuberance is captured.

For the first half of the movie, you're "stuck" with James Hong. James Hong is one of those rare character actors that can carry a movie by himself. With the help of some funny bits, James Hong as Wong keeps people watching until Feng shows up. I've been a fan of James Hong since Big Trouble in Little China because besides being an accomplished actor, he can poke fun at himself. Any actor whose ego does not get in the way of entertaining people is a professional worth watching.

Now onto the plot.

A broken down ping pong prodigy, Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) is performing at a second rate casino. Needless to say, there's a demon from his past haunting him. (That the personification of the demon is played by one of the writers may be intentional irony.) Enter FBI agent Rodriquez (George Lopez) with a plan to use Daytona to bring the criminal master mind Feng to justice. Rodriguez wants Daytona to gain access to Feng by competing in one of Feng's ping pong tournaments. If it sounds like Enter the Dragon, it should since that's one of the movies being lampooned.

But before he can enter, a rusty Daytona needs to train and get back into form. With Wong as his mentor (along with plenty of references to The Karate Kid) Daytona regains his fighting skills. A take off on the old "wax on, wax off" routine is clever. A highlight of the training is the battle between Daytona and "The Dragon". It's standard fun fare until Daytona wins. I mean, you knew he had to, right? "The Dragon's" response to the loss is perfect, if a bit politically incorrect. I guess "The Dragon" must have reminded me of someone because I laughed a bit too much at the over-the-top histrionics.

So after falling in love and receiving an invitation to the tournament via a golden paddle, Daytona is off to Feng's island! Feng's tournament is a fight to the death! Oh, no! Daytona's bÍte noire arrives! Oh, no! If you didn't see this coming, you need to watch more B-grade movies.

I wouldn't call it a plot twist as much as I would call it a piling on of references, but Daytona needs to win and by winning, he'll lose. Also, by losing, he'll lose. (Duh!) I thought this was more than should be expected of a movie like this, so it was refreshing. Daytona's handling of the dilema is actually a clever, original solution.

Finally, there's the expected battle between Feng and Daytona, with respect being paid to Never Say Never. If the movie wasn't over the top before, it is now! And delightfully right on time.

Credit goes to both Walken and Hong for their daffy character interpretations. Credit also goes to George Lopez for playing his character as a straight man when he could have gone too far and spoiled things. The same credit goes to Dan Fogler.

Now let's get into what's wrong with the movie. Basically, it's a one trick pony that's trying for two. Face it, ping pong doesn't give a writer the breath to keep things interesting for long. I mean, it's a simple game with simple rules. It's like an onion with only one layer.

I laughed a lot at the beginning of the movie. I slowed down toward the middle. At the end, I was only smiling. The writing didn't taper off, but the well of freshness began to run dry. Maybe if I saw half of the film one night and the second half on another night, the end would be as funny as the beginning. Like I said, it wasn't the writing, it was the fault of a single topic.

Is the movie offensive in any way? There are a couple instances of racial stereotypes. But, since the movie was done for laughs, I can't imagine anyone really taking exception to them. There's also a gay take-off from Enter the Dragon which I also thought was funnier than it was offensive. I thought that blond cheerleaders might feel the barbs from this parody before anyone from the gay community did.

With the previous caveats out of the way, it's really one of the funniest recently released movies the I've seen. In fact, because there's no blood, torture, explicit sex, or (if I remember correctly) blasphemy, it actually falls into the category of movies that you can watch with a girl. Whether the girl will like it or not, I don't know. If she's seen any of movies that Balls of Fury spears with its parodies, she might.


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