Balls of Fury

Balls of Fury (2007)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, Thomas Lennon
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Featurettes

Have you ever known people who are under the impression that they are incredibly funny when they just aren't? And you know how torturous it is to sit through one of their long-winded, never-ending jokes that takes so long to arrive at its punch line that you can't remember the set-up? Well, that pretty much sums up the experience of watching "Balls of Fury," a comedy so utterly deprived of humor it is simply astounding. Furthermore, several of the people involved in the making of the film have proven on occasion that they actually can be funny, which only makes this atrocity even more revolting.

The story (and I use this term loosely) follows Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler), a disgraced table-tennis champion who is drawn out of retirement by the FBI to participate in a tournament between the world's greatest table-tennis players organized by a crime leader who . . . you know what, it really doesn't matter. When this film ended, I actually had no idea what took place. All that was clear was that table-tennis players were dying at the hands of Christopher Walken in a flamboyant role as a Chinese (?) "arch-fiend," as he is referred to by distributor Rogue Pictures, who apparently don't know what to call him either. George Lopez plays the FBI agent who recruits Randy, co-writer Thomas Lennon is the German champion who defeated Randy in the Olympics several years earlier, and Maggie Q is the requisite love interest and niece of a dotty, blind sage (James Hong).

The performers in this film are not without merit, but there is none to be found here. Christopher Walken balances great films with trash like few others do and shows no regrets, so one can only presume that he took his paycheck without question and walked away. I like George Lopez, but he is largely restrained in this thankless role as essentially a straight man to Tony Award-winner Dan Fogler's manic and irritating personality. Maggie Q looks great and gives it her best, but the role is unworthy of both her looks and talent.

Thomas Lennon and co-writer/director Robert Ben Garant are best known for starring in and writing the popular television series "Reno 911!," a show that I find quite enjoyable in its own quirky way. Their forays into film, however, have been much less substantial, with recent titles like "Taxi," "The Pacifier," and the ridiculously successful "Night at the Museum." What "Balls of Fury" demonstrates is that these guys rely far too heavily on a one-joke idea that probably would not have worked that well to begin with and is completely destroyed when stretched out to feature length. The concept of a kung fu parody with table tennis instead of combat is something that potentially could have worked as a 10-minute sketch, but there is just not enough meat here to keep viewers satisfied for an hour and a half, a running time it achingly struggles to achieve. That Walken is not Asian is clearly meant to be a running source of levity, but it quickly grows old after he makes his first appearance. Likewise, the blindness of James Hong's character is predictable and routine.

The biggest shocker of this film—and I'm not sure whether to praise this or criticize it—is that there are next to no "ball" jokes. With a title like "Balls of Fury," the film practically announces itself as a barrage of anatomically oriented jokes. Before watching it, I was surprised to learn that it was only rated PG-13, for "crude and sex-related humor." The title is probably the crudest thing about it. While this restraint is somewhat admirable, I suppose, in contrast to the inane gross-out comedies that are targeted at decreasingly sophisticated teen audiences these days, any kind of humor would have been better than none at all. Perhaps if Garant and Lennon had taken it a step further to push the limits of political correctness, this would have been at least mildly amusing, but try as it might, the film never inspires any outright guffaws, and quite frankly there is nothing sadder than a comedy that is not funny.

Universal brings "Balls of Fury" to DVD in a very good anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The image is sharp and free of artifacts. Colors are generally bright throughout. Skin tones are occasionally a tad reddish but otherwise look fine. The picture is also a bit dark throughout. I'm not sure whether or not this is the intended look, but it is not overly distracting, but still worth mentioning.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French, and Spanish. The sound is never intense, and the track is thus pretty ordinary. Voices are warm and clearly presented, music is distributed nicely without overpowering the dialogue, and the aural effects of the tennis matches are sufficiently pronounced. It's all pretty standard, no better or worse than it should be.

Seven deleted scenes make up the first offering of bonus features. Lasting six-and-a-half minutes collectively, they are not particularly entertaining. It is understandable why they were cut. I only wish more had been cut from the final film. These are followed by an alternate ending that, likewise, is just not very interesting.

Next is a 14-minute featurette, "Balls Out: The Making of Balls of Fury." Featuring interviews with Garant, Lennon, and several cast members, this is a so-so look at the production. Lots of behind-the-scenes footage is shown, but this is routine and not very likely to stimulate anyone's interest unless they actually liked the film. It also features way too much footage from "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story," whose star, Jason Scott Lee, has a supporting role in this film.

The last feature is "Under the Balls: The Life of a Ball Wrangler," a roughly five-minute tongue-in-cheek piece with actress Irina Voronina as a supposed "ball wrangler" whose job is to pick up all the balls while wearing extremely short shorts.

There is nothing particularly offensive about "Balls of Fury," but that is ultimately part of its problem. The film is one long joke that just sort of lies there, flat and without purpose. Though not without considerable talent in front of the camera, this anemic comedy comes off as a lifeless bore. In perhaps the movie's sole bit of irony, it completely lacks what it boasts so furiously—balls.