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Jay Richardson

Published December 26th, 2007 | by Jay Richardson

Balls Of Fury Review

Classification: 12A Director: Robert Ben Garant Rating: 1.5/5

How do you recommend a comedy so devoid of humour that Christopher Walken’s appearance midway through provides the single, solitary laugh, simply because a screen legend is prepared to slum it so shamelessly?

Well, Balls of Fury has a reasonable premise – table tennis meets kung–fu for chuckles. The paddle action is rendered slick by neatly choreographed CGI. And Maggie Q, required to do little but look stunning in Mission Impossible III and Live Free Or Die Hard, offers enough feisty sass to suggest she could become a real star in a meatier role. Mostly though, Balls is formulaic, chock full of stereotypes and painfully unfunny.

Performing an unabashed impression of Jack Black, Dan Fogler is Randy Daytona, a former ping pong prodigy who competed as a 12-year-old at the Olympics, only to be defeated and humiliated by the strutting German Karl Wolschtagg (Thomas Lennon, who shares a co-writing (dis) credit with director Robert Ben Garant). Randy’s father (Robert Patrick) laid a bet on his son and was murdered by Chinese gangsters when he couldn’t settle the debt.

Now 30, fat and washed up, Randy performs in a lounge cabaret act hitting balls about to widespread disinterest, until he is approached by an FBI agent (George Lopez). Agent Rodriguez recruits him to track down Feng (Walken), the man who killed his father and a ping pong obsessed Triad leader who holds a tournament for the world’s best players. Having shunned competition for almost two decades, Randy is match unfit, so blind Master Wong (James Hong) and his table tennis handy, karate kicking niece Maggie (Q) are pressed into retraining him.

Following a series of goofy training mishaps and warm up matches, it’s off to the tournament at Feng’s secret jungle lair. The contest turns out to be a deadly showpiece where losers are dispatched by poison dart from Feng’s henchwoman (Aisha Tyler). Naturally, Randy survives through to a final face-off with Feng even as the compound begins to self-destruct with the Feds storming in.

Everything about this film feels tired and derivative. The likes of Kingpin and Dodgeball have shown that a comedy about losers in a minority interest sport can be successfully played for the broadest laughs. But as with Dodgeball, the execrable Beerfest and now this witless offering, you wonder if the writers could even conceive of a German character that isn’t cocky, nasty and camp? With the exception of Maggie, who is crowbarred into a mechanical romance with Randy, the Asian characters are all depressingly one-dimensional, not least Wong, whose blindness is tediously harped on, his every set up and pratfall more predictable than the next.

Fogler struggles wretchedly yet steadfastly with his material. But Walken scarcely bothers, sleepwalking through a role that chiefly asks him to look ridiculous in a series of flamboyant robes.


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