Balls of Fury
Yes, 'balls' is about right.
I remember the first time I saw a trailer for Balls of Fury. It was a few days after the announcement of the pending disaster that will be the Enter The Dragon remake, which I gather is now going by the title of Awaken The Dragon and by whatever combination of misfiring neurones my addled little brain processed the sets so obviously reminiscent of the 1973 classic as being from this demonic remake. The rising sense of outrage must have shorted out any attempt at logic centres pointing out that it won't appear until 2009, but in any case it was nullified rather effectively by the introduction of Christopher Walken in an outlandish outfit. Since then I'd been sort of looking forward to it, which I really ought to have learned not to do by this point in my life.
After flunking out of the Olympics as a child ping pong prodigy, Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) finds himself washed up on the dinner theatre circuit, and even that's gone south by the time F.B.I. agent Rodriquez (George Lopez) shows up to strong arm Randy into helping him infiltrate a Triad criminal operation run by the mysterious Feng (the aforementioned Walken), who happens to hold the occasional high stakes, invitation only table tennis tournament. Yeah, yeah, just roll with it. Daytona doesn't compete any more, and it becomes apparent that he simply doesn't have the sharply honed skills to warrant Feng's attention.
So it's off to Master Wong (James Hong)'s training school, landing the old man in trouble with the Chinatown elders for teaching secrets to a white devil, also introducing the unlikely love interest in Maggie Wong (Maggie Q). After proving his worth, Randy's off to Feng's Central American den of sin to join a bunch of nowhere near larger enough than life characters for the sort of predictable hijinxs you could probably do a better job of writing yourself.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the general idea of doing a silly ping pong based riff on Enter The Dragon, and indeed it's a notion I would heartily endorse. The only problem with this one is that it's just not all that funny. There are long stretches that fall as flat as a flattened flat thing, and it's not much of an exaggeration to claim that all of the funnies come from Walken and his unique delivery of the usual batch of slightly abstract dialogue. The rest of it seems badly under-written, and it's probably only some above average performances that stop this film grinding to an unceremonious halt.
See, while Dan Fogler, George Lopez, James Hong et al aren't generating too much in the way of laughs, they manage to be an amiable enough crowd such that they don't become the focus of hatred and anti-funny, as happens in, say, Death at a Funeral or Sweet Home Alabama. Okay, that's not something that can be heralded as the year's finest cinematic achievement, but it's enough to staunch the flow of marginal goodwill until the stocks are replenished somewhat by Walken's daffy performance.
None of which, as you'll probably have gathered by now, is anything like enough to warrant a recommendation, only enough to prevent us from unleashing the hounds on it. There are worse comedies out there, but that's hardly a reason to watch something that's sub-par rather than seek out something decent. Of course, if you're waiting for one of those to come out in a cinema then you might be in for a bit of a wait, but that's another matter entirely.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.
Christopher Walken (Feng)
George Lopez (Agent Ernie Rodriquez)
Maggie Q (Maggie Wong)
James Hong (Master Wong)