film | The mildest game ever played
BALLS OF FURY would be a terrific wink-nudge title for a porno James Bond adventure — picture this: Goldfingerer and his henchman Handjob steal the royal orbs from Suckingham Palace, and it's up to Agent 0069 and the spicy seductress Queef Latina to retrieve them — but instead it's a terrifically eye-rolling wink-nudge title for the latest silly sports spoof to emerge from the musty basement locker room of Hollywood's discount comedy warehouse. Not that the name ain't apropos. I mean, the movie's about a vicious underground table tennis tournament held at the secret Central American jungle compound of a bloodthirsty arms dealer, so it's actually a pretty good fit. But if you're already groaning at the sight of the poster or TV ads, you're reacting on the right track, as Balls of Fury isn't anywhere near as funny as, say, 2004's shockingly subversive Dodgeball. But it's also not so dreadfully unfunny that I'd be averse to paying it a few sundry compliments. And by that, I mean, y'know, it made me laugh every once in a while. Oh, and it sets the bar admittedly high for computer-generated Ping-Pong ball effects. And Christopher Walken performs a karaoke version of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" during the closing credits, which is something you don't see everyday, so there's that.
Walken — who must be a big fan of Ping-Pong and/or director/co-writer Ben Garant's Reno 911!, for I am otherwise loath to explain his unlikely presence in this unabashed nonsense — plays the eccentric crime boss, absurdly decked out in wig and wardrobe refurbished from the Bram Stoker's Dracula lot sale. An actor whose distinctive deadpan-staccato line delivery seems borne of impromptu farce, he's a boon to the comic la-la-landscape of Thomas Lennon — who co-stars as a burly German pro-Ponger — and Garant's script. (As two of Reno's aloof police officers, both Lennon and Garant are aces of improvised lunacy themselves.) A droll, what-the-hell mischievousness follows Walken around, but the rest of the movie relies too heavily on blind-Asians-are-hilarious gags, as our schlubby hero (Tony-winner Dan Fogler, gamely aping the entire oeuvre of Jack Black), a former table-tennis wunderkind, hops back on the paddle under the Zen tutelage of a sight-impaired master-trainer (James Hong) in hopes of vanquishing Walken for good. There are a few inspired Naked Gun-style visual gags, and a lots of doofy fortune-cookie dialogue ("Better to die like a tiger than live like a pussy"), but it's mostly lowest-common-denominator business as usual: When in doubt, farts, pratfalls and blows to the scrotum are always grand. Well, actually, they're not. Which is kinda the problem. C+