Balls of Fury
Starring: Dan Fogler, George Lopez, Christopher Walken, Maggie Q, James Hong, and Thomas Lennon
Director: Ben Garant
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars
A one-time child Ping-Pong star (Folger), who has been reduced to performing Ping-Pong tricks at a dinner theater--is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the deadly underground table-tennis tournament hosted by reclusive Chinese crimelord and Ping-Pong effecianado Feng (Walken).
"Balls of Fury" is the best film I've seen on the big screen in several weeks. It's funny not only because it takes the harmless rec-room sport of table-tennis and turns it into a game of mortal combat, but also because it's a hilarious spoof of the 1970s-style martial arts movies, and even the Yellow Menace films from the 1930s and 1960s.
Contrary to what critics seem to think, this is more of a spoof of the traditional Chinese martial arts movie than it is a spoof of sports films. It's got all the cliches you'd expect from a Bruce Lee film, or a Shaw Bros. prodution from the 1970s, except instead of Kung Fu, we've got paddles and tiny white balls. (We get a little bit of Kung Fu, courtesy of the love interest played by Maggie Q. who also gives us a very attractive showing of skin.)
There's also some obvious nods to the Fu Manchu movies of the late 1960s, both through Christopher Walken's character and the location and nature of his stronghold.
Yet, most critics seem to have missed these fairly obvious cues.
This is another film that is getting bad reviews from a number of critics who simply don't have enough of a context to understand it. They are comparing it to movies like "Blades of Glory" when they should be considering it in the light of "Enter the Dragon". These same critics also missed the boat on "Nacho Libre" for much the same reasons--they simply aren't well-versed enough in genre pictures to properly judge a film that's primarily directed at lovers of B-movies.
What's amazing about these critics missing the foundation of this film is that not only do they have numerous scenes mirroring "Enter the Dragon", not to mention much of the storyline, but they have a supporting cast of actors who have appeared in numerous Kung Fu action films over the years. There's also the fact that the main Chinese bad guy is being played by a white man, like Fu Manchu has been in every scrreen appearance--Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Peter Sellers, and Nicolas Cage are all as non-Asian as Christopher Walken.
While the film is more chuckle than laugh-inducing, it's nowhere near as bad as the "professionals" would have you believe. They simply do not understand what they are watching, and they are completely missing all but the most obvious slapstick and "Naked Gun"-esque jokes. It's rather sad to watch them revealed to be utterly clueless about genre films and therefore totally miss the essense of "Balls of Fury".
I suppose it can be said that this is a film with humor that's too low for the "real" critics to get, because it's poking fun at films that many of them haven't bothered to see.
Even allowing for cluelessness, I think many critics are dumping on this movie unfairly. The actors all show great comedic talent and timing. Even Maggie Q. (who is having a really good year, since this is the second quality film she's appeared in this summer, the first being "Live Free or Die Hard") who I suspect is mostly in the film for her hot body gets in some funny moments by playing off the martial arts film stereotypes. Fogler is hilarious as he bumbles his way through the storyline, ultimately ending up in a Ping-Pong battle to the death against Christopher Walken's unpredictable, wakcy-yet-menacing evil Chinese villian. James Hong is also very funny as he applies martial arts cliches to the "ancient art of Ping-Pong" and delivers motivational speeches full of similies that are anything but expected. (In fact, it's a toss-up as to who's funnier in the film, Walken or Hong. Both really earned their paychecks for this one.)
If you have a sense of humor and a love for class martial arts movies, I think you'll enjoy "Balls of Fury" immensely. Trust me. You don't want to take the word of the "experts" on this one. They truly don't know what they're talking about. (I recommend taking in a matinee, as it's cute but not exactly roof-raising. It's just not as bad as the critics would have you believe.)