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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

Balls of Fury (review)

Tiny Balls

Oh, yes, this is the movie that’s been advertised — har har — as being the one about “tiny balls.” See, it’s one a them dubble on-tond-drays, cuz it’s a movie about ping pong and it’s a movie about… well, are we supposed to think that the movie is about testicularly challenged men? That would be weird.
Funnily enough, though — and it’s the only thing funny about this dreadful excuse for a comedy — the movie itself has tiny balls. It’s got no nerve, no guts, no daring… no balls. It does have a lot of ethnic stereotyping, the lazy screenwriter’s go-to cliché when he can’t think of anything actually funny. Oh, and it also has multiple crotch injuries, the lazy screenwriter’s other go-to cliché. It has a fat guy who is supposed to be funny because he’s fat, and a foul-mouthed elderly man who is supposed to be funny because he’s a foul-mouthed elderly man. It has moments of humiliation revolving around suggestions of gay sex, which are supposed to be funny because they suggest that some men like to have sex with other men, as if this were a newsflash. But there’s nothing actually, you know, funny.

The whole thing is a one-joke pony, and the one joke has worn out its already tepid welcome by about 15 minutes into the movie. The joke is this: What if ping-pong were an Olympic sport? The joke is on the filmmakers, though — ping-pong has, in fact, been an Olympic sport since 1988. (I won’t mention the names of the two screenwriters, one of whom also directed the film, because they are also responsible for some of the worst movies of recent years, like The Pacifier and Taxi and they don’t need to be embarrassed any more than they already are.) Or maybe the joke is: What if some people took ping-pong so seriously that it was a matter of life and death to them?

Well, those people would be idiots, and that’s what we have here. Former child ping-pong star Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler: School for Scoundrels) crashed and burned at the Olympics way back when, but now he’s got a chance to redeem himself when the FBI asks him to go undercover at an illegal underground life-or-death ping-pong tournament run by a mysterious crime boss. That makes it sound a lot more coherent than it is, actually. The threadbare plot just barely concerns itself with Randy’s training to get back in top form, which he does with Master Wong (James Hong) and his granddaughter, Maggie (Maggie Q: Live Free or Die Hard, Mission: Impossible III) — athletic training, it seems, requires a Yoda-esque old man who sports vulgar non sequiturs likening ping-pong to an old prostitute on top of a lot of philosophical claptrap so blatantly stolen from Star Wars (where it made more sense) that George Lucas should sue. To be fair, though, all the training stuff allows Fogler to shake his flabby body around in desperately unfunny attempts to 1) parody sports-training montages, and 2) make us laugh at how ridiculous too-tight T-shirts look on him.

It gets worse, though: I suspect that Randy’s “romance” with Maggie, which may be the most forced coupling in the history of cinema, is not meant to make us laugh, that it is meant to charm us. But that’s just one more cheap, ugly, stupid thing in a movie so replete with cheap, ugly, and stupid that it could hire some out and still be a disaster.

The only aspect of Balls of Fury that is even remotely watchable is Christopher Walken (Hairspray, Man of the Year) as Feng, the ping-pong-mad crime boss. But it’s just sad, too: he highlights how shoddy everything else around him is, which makes you take enormous pity on him. What was he thinking, degrading himself by agreeing to appear in this? What was I thinking degrading myself by watching it? We all need a mindwipe to erase the indignity.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, and for language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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