There are a few surprises in Balls of Fury. For instance it’s not the direct rip-off of Dodgeball that you might expect it to be, and the sport of ping-pong is more exciting to watch than you’d think. But the jokes are stale and the movie’s best moments come courtesy of Christopher Walken who, let’s be honest, gets bonus points just for being Christopher Walken.
The film stars a relatively unknown comedic actor named Dan Fogler. Calling him a comedic actor may however, be somewhat generous. Dan’s comedic repertoire consists mostly of being fat and sweaty, and that stops being funny after about five seconds. Fogler plays disgraced former child ping-pong champ Randy Daytona, and the once great kid ping-pong player he was has grown up into a hairy mess. For rather stupid reasons he’s recruited by the FBI and asked to infiltrate the ping-pong tournament of a notorious criminal named Feng. He agrees, since Feng is the man who killed his father or something.
Doesn’t matter. The result is that Randy is teamed up with a loser Mexican FBI agent (George Lopez), a blind master ping-pong instructor named Wong (James Hong), and the master’s super-hot niece Maggie (Maggie Q). Together they travel into Feng’s lair and then we’re treated to 90 minutes of gags designed to poke fun of Wong’s blindness. Yep, most of the movie’s jokes have nothing to do with ping-pong. Instead the film is scene after scene after scene of Wong walking into things, falling over, and pointing in the wrong direction. This is a one-joke movie, and it’s a joke that’s been done dozens of times before in movies a lot funnier than this one. Personally, my favorite incarnation of the hapless blind sidekick bit was in Robin Hood: Men In Tights, in which Robin’s trusty blind sidekick Blinkin ends up dueling a stone column to the death.
Chris Walken plays the movie’s villain and while funny, would been funnier if I hadn’t seen him playing this same character in The Rundown. Walken’s performance, as usual, boils down to him parodying himself. He’s not playing a guy named Feng, he’s playing a Christopher Walken playing a guy named Feng, and that’s funny because, well, he’s Walken. It’s entertaining even if it is recycled.
The weird thing is that I found myself wishing they’d drop all pretense of doing comedy and simply shown us more ping-ponging. Like all Americans, I find table tennis incredibly boring, but director Ben Garant shoots it in a way that actually makes hitting a tiny white ball across a kitchen table strangely exciting. If only he’d been able to work that same kind of magic on Balls of Fury’s lifeless, derivative script.