Balls of Fury (2007)
Enter the Ping Pong Wizard
He could play table tennis like the devil in short shorts - Wong
It makes me wonder what sort of mind can come up with the idea of taking "Enter the Dragon" and "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" as well as elements of "The Karate Kid" and turning them into a movie about Ping Pong. It's an insanely daft idea and an insanely daft movie one which the chances are most people will dislike for being so down right daft. But then for those who can pick up on the unsubtle manipulation of "Enter the Dragon", "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" and "The Karate Kid" will find it as amusing as I did.
As a young boy Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) was a teenage ping pong prodigy, that is until during a televised tournament he took a bad fall and in embarrassment turned his back on playing professionally, turning his talent into a form of nightclub entertainment. Now a couple of decades later and Randy is approached by the FBI who want him to become a spy at a top secret ping pong tournament run by the secretive Feng (Christopher Walkern - Hairspray). But first Randy must regain his skills and to do that finds himself under the guidance of blind ping pong master Wong (James Hong) who in turn finds himself in trouble for teaching the Quilo meaning Randy must take on The Dragon first.
So the best way to describe the storyline to "Balls of Fury" is that it is a comical reworking of "Enter the Dragon" with instead of martial arts, ping pong being the focus. But then it is embellished to take in other movies so you have a whole section which imitates "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" with issues over the sage like instructor teaching Quilo, otherwise known as foreigners, and at the same time imitates "The Karate Kid" with some humorous training methods, including a hilarious bee swatting scene. All of which is extremely daft but at the same time entertaining especially when you pick up on the references and imitations, such as the intentionally ironic small part for Jason Scott Lee who played Bruce Lee in "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story".
And then the best way to explain the comedy is to say take the comic styling of "Zoolander", "Dodgeball" and "School of Rock" merge them together in a cacophony of jokes some of which work, some most certainly don't. That mix of comedy is as daft as the storyline so you get humour from Def Leppard loving Randy Daytona rocking out to one of his favourite tracks in a scene which instantly reminds you of Jack Black in "School of Rock" and then the eccentric Feng played by the equally eccentric Christopher Walkern with a feel of the "Zoolander" about it.
All of which means that "Balls of Fury" is very much a movie which whilst amusingly conjures up a daft storyline feels very much like any other over the top comedy of recent years. Many of the jokes feel like you have watched them elsewhere and it is a case of throwing as many jokes at you as possible in the hope that some will work and to be honest some do.
What helps is that whilst the characters feel similar to those from other movies they work. Dan Fogler may be coming over all Jack Black as Randy Daytona but it's amusing and makes a change from the regular actors who lead these sorts of movies. And as already mentioned Christopher Walkern is eccentrically amusing as Feng the evil mastermind behind the ping pong tournament. But with amusing performances from James Hong, Maggie Q and George Lopez as well as fun bit parts for Terry Crews, Robert Patrick and Thomas Lennon there are a lot of adequately amusing performances which stops "Balls of Fury" feeling like a movie all about Dan Fogler.
But here is the thing, if you've never watched "Enter the Dragon", "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" or "The Karate Kid" then many of the jokes will just fly right over your head. It's in the unsubtle comedy surrounding these movies where "Balls of Fury" is at its best and watching it without getting these in-jokes would make it feel like a poor man's version of "Dodgeball".
What this all boils down to is that "Balls of Fury" is a better movie than I expected and is actually quite good fun with its comical manipulation of several martial arts movies. It's not overly original and many of the jokes feel like they have been cherry picked from similar modern comedies but if you get the in-jokes surrounding the martial arts movies then it's a surprisingly funny and at times a clever movie.
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