The tagline for Balls of Fury calls the movie “A big comedy with tiny balls.” While I’ll take their word for it as far as that second part goes, calling the movie a “big” comedy is extremely subjective—especially when one is trying not to take the easy route and make a joke about star Dan Fogler’s (School for Scoundrels) waistline. The film comes from director Ben Garant, who cowrote the film along with Thomas Lennon. The duo’s last film, Reno 911!: Miami, might be the most obnoxiously unfunny film of the year, and they’ve also been involved in such atrocious stinkers as Taxi (2004), The Pacifier (2005) and Herby Fully Loaded (2005). Knowing what precedes it, the comparatively innocuous Balls of Fury could be considered “huge.” Of course, this isn’t to say that the movie is good. It never even flirts with being decent, but what it does do is not be as bad as it could’ve been. Judging by the talent on hand, that isn’t just big, it’s gargantuan.
The movie’s concept probably gave the writers giggle fits when they came up with it, but it’s a completely different animal in practice. Fogler plays Randy Daytona, a former Ping-Pong Olympian who choked in the gold-medal round and retired from competition after the murder of his father. Flash forward a couple of decades and Daytona has become a low-rent Ping-Pong lounge act, until the day he’s approached by the FBI to bring down the notorious crime lord Feng (Christopher Walken), who was responsible for his father’s death. From here, it’s a basic send-up of kung fu flicks—with all the entertainment and excitement value inherent in table tennis that has made the game a staple of rec rooms and basements everywhere.
The film appears to be the first salvo at making Fogler a star, though his Jack Black-lite performance makes it a singularly weak one. It’s not fair to compare the two actors simply on the basis of shared girth, but when Fogler breaks out his very Black-ian dance moves to Def Leppard, it’s impossible not to make the comparison. In his defense, Fogler has enough charisma to steer the film away from being a constant annoyance, and actually makes his character somewhat likable. But while the Black comparison may be apt, there’s also the specter of another rotund comedian, because Balls of Fury ends up feeling too much like the kind of dreck (think Beverly Hills Ninja (1997)) that Chris Farley was pumping out a decade ago.
The real star of the movie is Walken, who manages to get a few laughs out of the shoddy material. He seems to be genuinely enjoying himself in the role of his phony Fu Manchu character, and easily runs away with the film. The catch is that there isn’t much to run away with. It’s a lot like stealing an AMC Pacer. Even if you do manage to pilfer one, it’s not going to get you very far.
The jokes aim low and go for the cheap laugh every time. You’ve got your flatulence gag, your shot to the groin, a lot of broad slapstick and even a bit of
80s irony thrown in for good measure. And that leaves Balls of Fury a completely forgettable comedy—one that I suggest you forget about seeing. Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor and for language.