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  Publicity Stills of "Balls of Fury"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Director: Ben Garant
Cast: Christopher Walken, Dan Fogler, George Lopez, Maggie Q, Robert Patrick, Thomas Lennon
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG (Some Coarse Humour)

Official Website: http://www.ballsoffury.com/

Opening Day: 27 September 2007


Randy Daytona (Fogler) is a skilled and charismatic ping-pong champion whose mental break down in the 1988 Seoul Games leads to the murder of his own father. Crippled by guilt and regret, the once mighty phenom becomes a has-been. But all that changes when the FBI calls on him to infiltrate the dangerous and deadly underground ping-pong organization headed by his father’s killer, the flamboyantly evil Feng (Walken). The stakes are life and death, but Randy is determined to bounce back. To prepare for this ultimate showdown though, he must seek the guidance of Master Wong and his beautiful daughter Maggie (Mission Impossible III’s Maggie Q) to rediscover the game he loved and to learn the true meaning go and Pong…

Movie Review:

Once in a while, you catch a trailer that makes you laugh out loud, and you find yourself anticipating the movie but wondering whether the best bits have already been crammed into that short, 3-minute promotional stint. As such, you quietly manage your expectations so whatever you end up watching doesn’t disappoint. With this in mind, I think you’ll find that Balls of Fury actually delivers. Touted as this year’s answer to the genuinely hilarious Dodgeball, Balls serves up some genuine laughs, as long as you’re clear about the sort of film you’re catching – while it’s better than the slightly contrived Blades of Glory, we’re not likely to see this winning big at the Oscars anytime soon either.

With a name that mimics the sound of the sport when it’s actually being played, it’s easy to see why most people don’t take table tennis or, in this case, ping pong, seriously. Then again, it’s hard to accord respect to a game that has grown men crouching over a table with ridiculously undersized bats while chasing after even tinier balls. Then again, why a comedy poking fun of a sport that’s obviously primed for ridicule took so long in the making, we’ll never know. My best guess is that the producers probably couldn’t convince Jack Black that starring in something like this would be good for his career, therefore finally settling for Dan Fogler, who in every aspect resembles a poor man’s copycat - right down to his moniker Randy Daytona’s supposed penchant for Def Leppard tunes.

When the movie begins, we see Randy the ping pong child prodigy whose momentous defeat at the 1988 Olympics costs him his reputation, his supporters, his dad, and pretty much ruins his life thereafter. Fast forward to present-day Vegas and we see a defeated, has-been Randy who ekes out a living as a dinner spectacle, complete with stage introduction by a parrot and a rented glitzy tuxedo. His past catches up with him in the form of FBI agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez), who convinces Randy to go undercover for him to smoke out ultra evil baddie Feng, who is wanted for various sinister operations and, most conveniently, the reason behind Randy’s dad’s mysterious death so many years ago.

To whip the now-pudgy Randy into shape, Rodriguez brings him to Master Wong’s (James Hong) ping pong training school, which opens up a pandora’s box of ha-ha material complete with goofy kung-fu moves, corny Asian jokes and an entire battalion of blind man gags. Wong’s niece Maggie (Maggie Q) is tasked with the virtually impossible task of training Randy, which of course in movies like this she effortlessly does, along with falling for him in the process. Perhaps the most painful part of this entire segment is watching poor old Jason Scott Lee (playing Siu-Foo) spout mangled English throughout, especially since we know the dude’s as Americanized as they come. To prevent yourself from cringing so often you develop a permanent crick in your neck, we strongly suggest you leave your brains at the door.

After adhering pretty much to conventional linear plot development in the first half of the movie, all hell breaks loose once Randy meets Feng, played by the inimitable Christopher Walken who’s made up to look Asian. While it’s usually the case for Asians to feel offended when Caucasian actors play Asians in movies, I seriously doubt anyone will begrudge Mr. Walken his role in this particular movie. Decked out in ridiculously elaborate hairpieces and costumes that wouldn’t look out of place in a campy version of The Last Emperor, Walken remains the easiest focal point for the audience to train their eyes on while pandemonium explodes all round in a mishmash of seemingly-unconnected incidents that neither do justice to further the plot, nor do much to retain the audience’s interest.

Perhaps the biggest laughs come from the fact that we know some of the people in this movie have absolutely no business doing in it – simply because they are considered to belong to a higher strata of films. We laugh because the truly magnificent James Hong doesn’t consider himself beneath lowbrow humor, and also because he delivers his lines with great panache. Other appearances include the genuinely hilarious Thomas Lennon in his stint as Randy’s creepy Kraut arch-nemesis Karl Wolfschtagg, Terry Crews (who always makes me laugh), Diedrich Bader, as well as a blink-and-you-miss cameo by current TV darling Masi Oka. While adding nothing whatsoever to plot development, these people lend star glamour to a considerably plebian screen effort, and while we do have the occasional “What were they thinking?” moment, we’re gratefully thankful for it.

Movie Rating:

(Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!)

Review by Ninart Lui

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