Usually parody films are a successful endeavor (the original Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie are examples) because they’re easy to make. For the most part the story is already constructed, so all the writers have to do is come up with funny filler material and their off to the races. Coupling that with the latest craze – substituting the focus of the movie with a child’s game being played seriously by adults and the template for success is complete (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is an example). So even though Balls of Fury had both elements going for it, my intuition was screaming avoid at all costs. I didn’t listen. Let my mistake equal your gain.
I know you’re thinking the advertisements for Balls of Fury look funny as hell, but trust me, it’s all done with smoke and mirrors. Here’s the problem: it simply tries too hard. Comedies that try too hard are never funny. The writers (Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant) actually passed the point of being amusing and landed squarely on annoying. They took every trick from the Comedy Writers Handbook (close cousin to the Dungeon Masters Guide), jumbled them all together and hoped for a comedy miracle. Here is a sampling:
- Have people say mean and dirty things in a foreign language so they have to be translated – that’s twice the fun from the same joke
- A mentor with a disability who says and does stupid things is always good for a laugh (see Happy Gilmore)
- A hero who is fat, clueless and a social outcast is easy to make fun of, and in the end, is always worth cheering for
- Making the villain eccentric and flamboyant is comedy gold (see Zoolander). Points given if you can cast Christopher Walken in the role
- Fags, whether needed or not, are always good cannon fodder
Now it is possible to have these elements (plus more) in a movie and still be funny, but to bring it all together the writing and acting all have to top notch. That’s not the case here. Nothing the characters say is witty, catchy or entertaining. The writers figured the absurd premise would be enough to carry the film – after all it is about underground ping-pong! The acting is terrible too. George Lopez as FBI agent Ernie Rodriquez says his lines with zero enthusiasm. Christopher Walken as the evil Feng, appears completely lost. I think he woke up from a stupor, found himself on the set and decided to stay for a while.
The only high points of the movie are Dan Fogler and Maggie Q. Dan plays Randy Daytona, the ostracized ping-pong champion stuck working as a cheap night club act. His appearance breaks all the norms of what we expect from our sports heroes – he’s fat, sloppily dressed in Def Leppard concert tees and has lambchops Elvis would be proud of. Seeing him ham it up as he lip syncs Rock of Ages is the only worthy performance in the movie. Maggie Q as Randy’s love interest, on the other hand, doesn’t do much in terms of acting, she just looks absolutely fantastic.
What else needs to be said? Balls of Fury is a complete waste of celluloid and 90 minutes. Everyone working on the this film should be ashamed of themselves. Lord knows I’m ashamed of myself for watching it. I’m hoping the big screen adaptations of Tag: You’re It and Hopscotch Dreams make up for this colossal failure (I’m kidding about those movies, by the way).