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Movie Review: Balls of Fury

Balls of Fury
Directed by Robert Ben Garant
Written by Garant and Thomas Lennon

The creators of Reno 911 have an odd resume.  Their critically acclaimed TV show (turned into a movie this year) clashes pretty hard with some of the worst movies of this decade: The Pacifier, Taxi, Herbie: Fully Loaded, and some would include Night at the Museum and Let’s Go to Prison on that list.  Balls of Fury is the kind of comedy that should be right up their alley. 

As a side note: Garant, with this movie and Reno 911: Miami, becomes the first member of the 2007 2-movie club, barely beating Dead Silence’s James Wan, who has Death Sentence coming out this Friday.

In Balls of Fury, a one-time potential greatest ping-pong player of all-time named Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) is asked by FBI agent Ernie Rodriquez (George Lopez) to infiltrate an underground ping-pong tournament held by an international criminal known as Feng (Christopher Walken).  Feng has killed a lot of people, including Randy’s dad (Robert Patrick) 19 years ago.  Daytona is a bit rusty, however, and he needs help from the best: the blind Master Wong (James Hong) and his niece Maggie (the ferociously gorgeous Maggie Q).  Maggie’s father has also been killed by Feng.

Eventually, Daytona finds his way into the tournament, facing off against the best in the world, only to find out the losers are quickly dispatched with blow darts (courtesy of Aisha Tyler).  Some recognizable actors include Terry Crews and Thomas Lennon himself, playing over-the-top German Karl Wolfschtagg, who beat the 12-year-old Daytona in the 1988 Olympics, an event that led to Daytona’s downfall and his father’s death.

Occasionally mildly funny, Balls of Fury almost succeeds by being too ridiculous for words, but the execution is poor.  For instance, some basic storytelling is lost in the movie: Daytona never really gets better when he starts training, and when his training must come to an abrupt halt, there’s no explanation for why he starts kicking ass later other than he has a legendary paddle.  But the movie doesn’t even seem to regard the paddle as magical or powerful.  And Maggie, for no reason, starts falling in love with Daytona.

But even that would be forgivable if it had maintained good comic steam.  Part spoof of The Karate Kid, Kung Fu, Enter the Dragon, and just about any Jean-Claude Van Damme movie in the late eighties, it would seem like prime material for an above-average comedy, but the movie really crumbles with the narrative choices: not allowing us more time with the other competitors (Crews, as you see in the trailer, is dead before you even get to know him, which is a shame).  One bright spot, though, is Deidrich Bader, as always.  The man is a perfect bit player who steals movies every time he gets hired.

Balls of Fury just ends up being a strange little movie by the time it ends; jokes just unable to connect that in another film might have been hilarious.   

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