The obscure-sport comedy film seems to have run its course. Dodgeball
was funny and Blades of Glory was okay at best, but last year's
Balls of Fury was just a disappointment. Not only does this film
borrow its idea from those earlier films, but it's also a parody of Enter
the Dragon. How many times have we seen that done? Though
it starts off promising, the movie is soon gets mired in unfunny jokes
and people being kicked in the crotch.
Flash forward a number of years. Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) was
once a ping pong superstar, but now he's an overweight has-been working
as the lunchtime entertainment at a buffet restaurant in Reno. FBI
agent Ernie Rodriquez (George Lopez) approaches Daytona and informs him
that Feng (Christopher Walken), the man who murdered Daytona's father,
is holding a ping pong tournament at his secret hideout that's filled with
the best players in the world. The FBI wants Daytona to enter so
that he and Rodriquez can get evidence of Feng's criminal activity.
Daytona reluctantly agrees but first he has to hone his skills.
Rodriquez takes him to Master Wong (James Hong) a blind ping pong master
who trains him with the help of his niece Maggie (Maggie Q). Once
ready, they set off to Feng's tournament, where the sudden death matches
are just that; the loser is killed. Can Randy's ping pong talents
stand up to those of the other competitors?
The first 15 minutes of the film were fun, and there were a couple of
inspired moments sprinkled through the movie, but overall it just didn't
work. Part of the problem is they were trying to do too much; parody
Enter the Dragon and make a funny movie about ping pong. At times
it felt like they were choosing to follow Dragon's plot at the expense
of the humor. The entrance dinner for example: it followed
the events in the Bruce Lee movie, but it wasn't very funny. The
ping pong games didn't provide many laughs either, which is sad since that's
the focus of the movie.
The cast tried, but there was only so much they could do with the material.
Walken was excellent, as he always is, but why did they have him playing
an Asian??? He looks about as oriental as Chris Rock. Maggie
Q had a lot of screen presence and was nearly always dressed in a midriff-bearing
outfit which was nice to see, but she didn't have a very big role.
(Note to Maggie- go eat a cheese burger why don't cha. You'd look
much better if it didn't look like a strong wind would blow you away.)
Fogler was okay, but his comic pratfalls and pained expressions when he
was kicked in the crotch didn't garner many laughs.
The one person who really stole the show was Patton Oswalt who played
The Hammer, a county level ping pong champion who was way too full of himself.
His brief scene was hilarious and the one part that I watched over again
after the movie was done.
Obviously made on a small budget, the film clearly shows a lack of money.
The sets were all obviously sets and the entire production looked like
it was filmed in a dressed up warehouse. While this could add to
the comedic effect in some films, in this case it just comes across as
The HD DVD Disc:
This combo disc has the 1080p/VC-1 encoded HD DVD film on one side and
the anamorphic widescreen standard definition image on the other.
Flipping between sides, it's easy to see the advantages of the HD DVD image.
The high definition side looks very nice with good definition and fine
details that come through very well. The embroidery on Christopher
Walken's outrageous clothing makes the outfits even more over the top,
and the sweat on Fogler's brow is easy to notice. The colors are
also very good and while the palate isn't very bright (aside from Walken's
outfits) the tones are solid and even.
There are a lot of ping pong balls flying around at high speeds, and
even though they were all CGI additions, there weren't any compression
artifacts that are usually associated with fast moving objects. There
was some grain in a few scenes but it was minor and not a problem.
This disc comes with a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 audio track as well
as a DD+ 5.1 track. The TrueHD track is the way to go of course and
it sounds decent for a comedy. Most of the time the sound is firmly
planted around the screen, but there's an occasional audio effect, a ping
pong ball whizzing by for example, that takes viewers by surprise and adds
nicely to the film. The audio really comes alive in the final big
battle scene, with the subwoofer shaking the windows when a building explodes
and the full soundstage used for the bullets and battle sounds. Overall
this is a decent sounding disc that fits the movie well.
The disc comes with some good bonus material. There are seven
deleted scenes which vary in quality. They are mainly involve subplots
that were cut and none of them would have help the movie very much.
The alternate ending, where Agent Rodriquez offers Daytona a job with the
FBI was pretty stupid and they made the right decision when they put the
other ending in the film. There's also a 14-minute making of featurette;
Out: The Making of Balls of Fury. This was okay, but the writer
and director took the movie a bit too seriously. These three extras
were all presented in HD, which is very cool.
The only bonus item that is in SD is Under the Ball: The Life of
a Ball Wrangler. This five minute short shows the cute babe who
is responsible for handling the balls in the movie. A cheap joke
that really wasn't too funny.
A rather lame film with a few mildly amusing jokes sprinkled throughout
(though mainly in the beginning) Balls of Fury is a weak comedy that could
have been better but it's not too surprising that it's not. The HD
DVD combo disc is nice however, with a solid looking transfer and an adequate
Dolby TrueHD audio track. This would make a good rental when
you feel like a silly but forgetful comedy.
Note: The images in this review are not from the HD DVD and do not necessarily
represent the image quality on the disc.