Balls of Fury
At last there is a film that is courageous enough to expose a great threat to our safety, the underground world of illicit table tennis. For too long our youth have been pulled into this nightmare never to return. One film dares to take on the ping pong conspiracy, ‘Balls Of Fury’. Okay, the film is not a serious expose, as if anyone who is not on very heavy medication already knew. This is a film that is puerile, often disgusting and always silly. The thing is there is a place for silly flicks in our lives. With the news filled with wars, famine, terrorism and a planet on the brink of ruination we all need to retreat to a film with absolutely no social value other than a few cheap laughs. This film not only doesn’t require thinking the use of any though process can severely limit the enjoyment potential. In considering ‘Balls Of Fury’ you cannot compare it to any intelligent comedies like ‘Blazing Saddles’ or even ‘Ghostbusters’. This is not in that league and it was never intended to compete with such classic funny films. This is in the genre of flicks that have only one purpose and that is to be as inane as possible and to that goal this one works well.
This is a zany flick that is perfect for a beer and pizza night with friends. There are plenty of laughs to be had. Most of the humor is the type you knew back in Junior High School. Some of the sight gags are priceless. They take the audience up to the line of the absurd and gleefully jump right over it. The film never takes it self seriously. Too many flicks of this type try so hard to be the next Meatballs or Caddyshack. Here at least the movie is not pretentious and revels in the craziness. One major point in favor of this film is it remains above going too graphic with the sexual references. Sure, there is some jokes of this type in there, just look at the name of the flick, but it is much less than the usual teen oriented laugh-fest. There are also a few well placed kicks in the groin. As anyone that has seen ‘American’s Funniest Home Videos’ knows this is always a crowd pleaser and is even now socially acceptable.
In 1988 the world was celebrating the Olympics being held in Seoul, South Korea. One much anticipated event was the table tennis finals, the bid for the gold medal. The eyes of everyone were on one boy, 12 year old Randy Daytona (Brett DelBuono). He is the most famous table tennis star ever with his face on Sport’s Illustrated and boxes of Cinnamon Crunch Cereal. The golden boy of the sport easily defeated representatives from one country after another. Then the match everyone was waiting for, Randy versus Karl ‘Manslaughter’ Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon), the table tennis machine from East Germany. Just before the game Randy finds out that his coach and father, Sgt. Pete Daytona (Robert Patrick) has put a sizable amount of money on the match. The match is intense as the two highly skilled competitors face off across the ping pong table. Randy is distracted when he sees some very sinister looking Asian men standing near his father. He goes back to return a serve, slips and falls hurting his head. The match is forfeited to East Germany. The Asian men take Pete into a dank backroom and explain that Mr. Feng does not extend credit and murder him. Some 19 years later Randy (now played by Dan Fogler) is working in a broken down showroom in Reno Nevada doing a really bad ping pong act. After he almost chokes a customer he is fired.
Randy is approached by and FBI agent Ernie Rodriquez (George Lopez) who informs him that they need his help in taking down a Triad boss, the infamous Feng (Christopher Walken), the man behind the murder of his father. Randy initially refuses but after going to his father’s grave, now beneath a ride in a water park, he feels he has to bring his father’s killer to justice. The only way to get to Feng is through his passion, underground ping pong. Since Randy is out of shape he is sent to a blind ping pong master, Wong (James Hong) to hone his skills. Wong has a beautiful young nice, Maggie (Maggie Q) to help in the training. Not only can she defeat four opponents at once while answering the phone she is also an expert at martial arts. There is the required training sequence with every cliché from ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Karate Kid’ possible before Randy is deemed ready to take on the world of illegal ping pong.
This film was directed by Robert Ben Garant who is one of the people behind the Comedy Central’s hit series ‘Reno 911’. There is the same irreverence display here as in that series. He paces the film great especially considering the genre. There is an actual back story, as flimsy as it is. The plot is just an excuse to hold the jokes in some form or framework. Mostly this is one gag after another. Some work, some don’t but over all there is fun to be had here. You just have to be in the mood to be that silly pre-teen again. The whole concept is ludicrous after all but that just adds to the enjoyment if you let it. I lot of people have stated this flick is dreadful. I have to disagree. The trick is to take it on face value since that is how it is presented. True this film has a lot of flaws but sometimes you just have to give up on any semblance to reality and giggle.
One of the most frequent questions is how could a flick like this attract an actor with the status of Christopher Walken. He is one of the most talented men in Hollywood today. He not only won an Oscar but has appeared dancing in a music video and has a made cowbell a famous word thanks to one of his many appearances on Saturday Night Live. All of this demonstrates that this man is not only a great serious actor but he has a sense of humor or boot. Not only that be he has the rare ability to laugh at himself. He has nothing to prove and is able to take a foolish role like this and in a bizarre way makes it work. Another odd choice in casting here is Maggie Q. She is stunningly beautiful. Watching her fight in her little exercise outfit is worth the price of the film right there. There is a trend for such gorgeous actresses to take on action and comedy roles. She gets to do both here.
You got to hand it to Universal; they release a wide range of films. Admittedly this is not one of their best releases but the DVD is fun. Of course the anamorphic video and Dolby 5.1 are excellent; you wouldn’t expect less from Universal. The extras are better than you might think. There are some deleted scenes and it’s easy to see why they were left on the cutting room floor. The same holds true for the alternate ending; it’s a little funny but not necessary. There is a making of featurette called ‘Balls Out’ if you really need to see how this was produced. Another featurette is ‘Under the Balls: The Life of a Ball Wrangler’. This goes into the task of making sure the myriad of ping pong balls were on set on time. True this film is not great but it is worth the watch. Just make sure the pizza is hot and the beer is cold.