The humor of a game like ping-pong is the outright laziness and inaction that goes into it. It's a sport designed for drunken high-school parties, frat-house basements, and stoners who need to do something while Jerry and Marley jam out (the same could be said about billiards). Ben Garant
's Balls of Fury is contingent on this knowledge; the absurdity of lending some sort of importance to something that is basically as relevant as the color of sock you are currently wearing.
At first, Fury nails this ridiculous tone. The rise of ping-pong star Randy Daytona, a 10-year-old prodigy of the game, is adorned by numbskull television personalities and revered by the entire nation, including Ronald and Nancy Reagan. His defeat at the Olympics by German player Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon
, who also serves as producer and co-writer) is viewed not only as a personal loss, but a loss for America. His father (Robert Patrick
) has his head lopped off due to the German victory, and Randy vanishes into obscurity. Article continues below
Randy's re-emergence makes up most of the film, and it's here that the film begins to slide into tradition and away from savory buffoonery. We meet up with Randy (Dan Fogler
) at a "dinner theater" gig, being introduced by a man (David Koechner
in the film's best bit part) singing "Two Tickets to Paradise" with a parrot. As he is getting canned, FBI agent Rodriguez (George Lopez
) drafts Randy to infiltrate a top-secret ping-pong tournament hosted by Feng (Christopher Walken
), a triad boss and the man who ordered the death of Randy's father.
Randy's training begins with Master Wong (James Hong) and his uniformly gorgeous niece Maggie (Maggie Q
). Things are still funny at this stage, including a great match-up between Randy and "The Hammer" (Patton Oswald) at a high school tournament. It's when Rodriguez, Wong, and Randy show up at the tournament that things start going south. There's a noticeable rush to tie-up the plot and all pump up the drama which, up to this point at least, had been put aside. Balls of Fury, and by extension most goofy sports comedies, attempt to have their cake and eat it too, at the viewer's expense.
This isn't to say that Balls of Fury is a total loss, however, because it still delivers some decent laughs. Though its second half doesn't quite hold up, Diedrich Bader's bit as Randy's "courtesan" should be recognized. But ultimately this is the problem with Fury. It relies so heavily on these short spurts of cameo comedians to keep the tired plot afloat. Any of the bit characters in the film could have been the focus, with a character like Randy coming in for a brief stint, and most likely the bit would be hilarious. Fitting such small ideas into such large structures (rigid ones at that) makes for modestly amusing but essentially pointless viewing, and that's exactly what Balls of Fury is. It'd be unfair to put the film up against films as enriched and lively as Knocked Up
, but it pales in comparison to the similarly-minded Blades of Glory
. The film's inconsequentiality isn't a matter of pedigree; itís a matter of effort.