The title Balls of Fury opens the door for a cavalcade of obvious jokes, and one should definitely process that before entering the theater to catch this comedy. It’s yet another that capitalizes on games that few of us would even consider sports, and it continues this summer’s unlikely run of comedies. While not as consistently funny as the likes of Knocked Up or Superbad, it nevertheless delivers some great laughs, especially in its first half, and hilariously over-the-top Ping-Pong action. If you’ve ever wanted to see a Ping-Pong ball hit by a woman while doing a cartwheel, this is your flick.
The film stars Dan Fogler as Randy Daytona, a down-and-out former Ping-Pong phenom who is now a sidekick at a pathetic Reno, Nevada day show. His excruciating loss to Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon) at the 1988 Olympics still haunts him to this day. He considers his career over until he is approached by Rodriguez (Lopez), a FBI agent who feels that Daytona’s skills may be of use for a key mission. The Feds are after Feng (Walken), the man who killed Daytona’s father. Feng operates an underground Ping-Pong ring and the only way to infiltrate is to get invited to his annual tournament. Daytona, with the help of blind Master Wong (Hong) and his niece, Maggie (Q), breaks out the paddle and hits the circuit.
Balls of Fury knows that it’s absurd and just runs with it. Like Dodgeball, how seriously can you take this stuff? Screenwriters Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant (who also directed) play their cards right in portraying Ping-Pong as a sport on which people are willing to hang their livelihood. The rest of us play it in the basement on a rainy day, but the characters in Balls of Fury play it for “cold hard cash and cheap, ugly women,” as Wong says. If the climactic scene, in which Daytona is battling Feng while both wear electrified vests that give off a shock if one of them misses a point, doesn’t demonstrate how ludicrous the whole thing is, I don’t know what will.
Dan Fogler is thoroughly entertaining as Daytona, particularly in sequences where he is given awkward social dialogue (a scene in which a male prostitute is forced upon him takes a surprising twist). He has the physicality and demeanor to pull off the outrageous Ping-Pong action sequences and the interplay between him and Wong is what carries the film. What’s left to be said about Christopher Walken? The man can take any role he wants and he accepts that of a Ping-Pong underworld figure. You’ve got to love it. Of course he hams it up big-time and I have a feeling that much of his dialogue was actually ad-libbed. A scene in which he calmly expresses his views on “sudden death” is gold. James Wong steals several scenes as the blind Master, and the supporting work by George Lopez and Maggie Q is very good.
Balls of Fury loses some steam as it enters its second half, but it never comes close to derailing thanks to the impressive Ping-Pong action and Walken’s increasingly weird Feng. The film does fall into some slapstick pitfalls that quickly wear out their welcome, but on the whole Balls of Fury delivers exactly what you’d expect from a movie about dangerous underground Ping-Pong matches. How often can you say that?
Studio: Rogue Pictures
Length: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, and for language.
Theatrical Release: August 29, 2007
Directed by: Ben Garant
Written by: Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon.
Cast: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, James Hong, Terry Crews