Just enough dumb fun in “Balls of Fury”
You don’t have to be a table tennis fan to enjoy “Balls of Fury,” but it would help. Since the ping-pong martial arts goof fest is punctuated with flurries of one-liners and sight gags, most of which hit close to the funny bone if not right on it, to base its creative center on the game itself is a smart move.
There are just enough interesting characters, along with dozens of fresh ideas relating to ping-pong, to keep the audience along for the ride. And unlike many other dumbed-down comedies it knows not to linger too long on any one joke.
A former child champion who was ignominiously defeated, Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler, in a role Jack Black would have taken five years ago) finds himself 20 years on doing ping-pong tricks in a dive lounge. Still living down his past, and still wearing Def Leppard t-shirts, Randy is recruited by an FBI agent (George Lopez) to trap arch villain and table tennis connoisseur Feng (Christopher Walken), who not coincidentally was responsible for the death of Randy’s father (Robert Patrick).
This very basic plot sets up the storyline for Randy’s comeback, which requires his tutelage under Master teacher Wong (Veteran James Hong). Of course, Wong is blind, and conjures up the kind of spiritual inspiration that would make Mr. Miyagi proud. (Or at least only slightly embarrassed.)
Two elements make “Balls of Fury” worth watching. Each member of the cast, including Fogler (fresh from his Tony award-winning performance in “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”), the always curiously fascinating Walken, and Maggie Q (“Mission Impossible 3, and “Live Free Die Hard”), seems to care about his role. Plus there are abundant zesty details: fun martial arts scenes, interesting uses for chopsticks, a great German rival (co-writer Thomas Lennon), and some mild innuendo involving male courtesans. “Balls of Fury” really never slows down; it bounces along by keeping things harmless and silly.
Considering the fact that its lead isn’t named Will Ferrell, and the entire film was made for less than what he alone would have cost, “Balls of Fury” is no loser.
It’s dumb fun done right.
Rate PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor and language