a critiQal film review Balls of Fury (2007)

  • DVD

Plot: Down-and-out former pro Ping-Pong player Randy Daytona (Fogler) is recruited by FBI Agent Rodriguez (Lopez) to infiltrate the Ping-Pong underground and find the evil Feng (Walken).

914 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 34s)

Ever since I saw Pulp Fiction, True Romance and that Moby video, I’ve been a big fan of Christopher Walken. His dry wit and dead-on character portrayals are hilarious, and he manages to bring a dark undercurrent to his role, even a comedic one, making it all that much funnier. So when I heard he was in a new movie, Balls Of Fury, and he was playing the king of an underground Ping-Pong tournament, well, I just had to see it.

Still, I had reservations. Dan Fogler stars – and I’ve never heard of him. From what I could tell from the preview, he was just another overweight wannabe comedian – think a wannabe Chris Farley doing a Will Ferrell imitation, and you might get the drift. And then there was George Lopez, whose show, despite being loved by many, never made me laugh – or kept my attention long enough to keep me from switching channels.

So, this one wasn’t exactly on my must-see list when it hit DVD, but I figured I’d watch it sooner or later, as Christopher Walken and “underground Ping-Pong” seemed too hard to resist. So, the other day while we were at our local Blockbuster – and the pickings were a little slim (typical of the place on a Saturday – thank goodness for blockbuster.com!), we nabbed a copy of Balls Of Fury.

Dan Fogler is rather unimpressive, and comes off in the film exactly as expected – a wannabe Chris Farley doing a bad Will Ferrell imitation. Considering that Will Ferrell isn’t exactly on this site’s favorite actors list, that isn’t saying much at all. George Lopez does a much better job in Balls Of Fury than in his TV show, but again, he’s not much to write home about.

Maggie Q is somewhat wasted here as a Ping-Pong player/kung fu expert/love interest, and the viewer will never believe the romance that develops between her and Fogler. She does a good job of brining sexiness and passion to her role, and she does a decent job of feigning an interest in Fogler, but her role is too stereotypical to be actually as entertaining as it could have been.

Christopher Walken, complete with dry wit, does a good job in his role, but the filmmakers try to hard to make him funny. Dressing him up in what one character refers to as “an Elton John wardrobe” doesn’t really add anything to his performance, and actually detracts a little from it. The viewer will be too busy focusing on the ridiculous costume to actually pay attention to Walken, and will miss most of the nuances that made his performances in Pulp Fiction and the like such hits.

While the main cast isn’t up to delivering the hilarity Balls Of Fury tries to produce (although the filmmakers do their best to present situations – mostly of the pratfall type – followed by a pause for the laughter that never comes), the film more than makes up for the laughs with special appearances by other familiar faces.

Aisha Tyler is the funniest of these familiar faces, and delivers the funniest performance of the entire film. While she has few lines, and is nothing more than a blow-dart assassin for Feng, she delivers hilarity in every scene she’s in. Whether she’s rolling her eyes at the idiocy on-screen (it helps the viewer agrees with her 100%) to barking harsh commands or letting loose with a short quip, she’s the funniest part of the whole film.

The other special appearances don’t come close to being as funny as she is, but Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon – even Diedrich Bader – manage to produce more laughs than most of the main character, despite being in the film for not even a third of the time.

The biggest disappointment in these second-billed characters is James Hong, who’s portrayal of a blind teacher is marred by the ridiculous things he’s made to do. Whether he’s walking into walls or shouting out “What did I miss?”, the filmmakers went the easy route. Hmmm, they think, how can we put in more comedy? Ah, make an inept and stupidly clumsly blind man! Poking fun at handicaps is always worth a laugh, right? Maybe this viewer is part of the minority, but it doesn’t seem funny at all – just desperate.

While Aisha Tyler, Diedrich Bader and most of the rest of the minor characters do a good job of bringing laughs to the film, Balls Of Fury is still not as funny as it could have been. With a hilarious set of minor characters, Christopher Walken, Maggie Q, a better-than-normal George Lopez and a plot about a freakin’ “Ping-Pong Underground,” this movie should have been non-stop funny. Instead, there’s a lot of awkward pauses while the film supposedly waits for the laughter to die down – only it’s a bit awkward to watch when the laughter isn’t there.

While it doesn’t come close to living up to it’s potential, very brief good moments from Maggie Q, Christopher Walken and even George Lopez do produce a couple of laughs, with the minor characters – especially Aisha Tyler – filling in enough to make the movie worth a rental. Still, with Fogler’s unworthy performance and the filmmakers need for laugh track pauses probably will keep most from going back to Balls Of Fury for another look. In this case, one viewing is about all you need.

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