Thursday, June 18, 2015

Balls, Said the Queen

It was pretty obvious that Balls of Fury (2007) was going to be stupid. It's a comedy about the underground world of high-stakes ping-pong. But it's actually stupid in a good way.

It stars Dan Fogler, a chubby, hairy slob who strikes me as the guy to get when you can't get Jack Black. He was a ping-pong prodigy when he lost in the Olympics to an obnoxious German (Thomas Lennon) - due to the shock of seeing his father betting on the game with some Yakuza types. Many years later, he is doing a trick ping-pong act in a cheap Reno casino when the FBI comes to him with an offer. They need to infiltrate the high-stakes world of underground ping-pong to bring down Feng - the very gambler who killed Fogler's father when he lost that game.

After Fogler gets whooped by Patton Oswalt, they decide he needs to get trained by the master. I'm going to pause and rewind here. Yes, cameo Patton Oswalt. FBI agent is played by George Lopez, doing a really good job. But the best part for me is the blind master ping-pong instructor, who is played by James Hong, from Big Trouble in Little China and many others. I watched Kung-Fu Panda just to hear Hong say "We are noodle folk!". Even better, the obligatory beautiful grad-daughter is Maggie Q.

So, pretty strong supporting cast, considering. But I'm burying the lede - Feng is played by Christopher Walken, in outfits that Lopez says were bought at Elton John's yard sale. He is totally having a ball here, not bothering with a Chinese accent, swishing around and generally doing Han from Enter the Dragon.

If you came to this expecting a Dodgeball or Blades of Fury, you will get what you came for. I'd say it's not quite in their league, but it's a game little movie with some good bits and some funny people. My main objection is that Maggie Q has to get all horny over Fogler, which doesn't make sense, although maybe it was supposed to be funny.

So - better than it had to be. Congrats to Dan Fogler.

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