The cheerfully dumb "Balls of Fury" thumbs its nose at sports movies, underground fighting tournament flicks, and squares in the audience. It's schlocky and tasteless but also good-natured and harmless, and the people who come out to see it will get just what they want: 90 minutes of freewheeling, switch-off-your-brain laughs.
"Reno 911" creators Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant wrote the script, or rather slapped it together from gags scribbled while they watched "The Karate Kid" and "Rocky III." The secret to screwball comedy, as to ping-pong, is to keep lobbing fast and furious, and director Garant mostly succeeds in keeping the gags flying.
Dan Fogler, a hefty, mop-haired muppet, stars as Randy Daytona, a onetime ping-pong prodigy humiliated in the 1988 Olympics and now a has-been performer in a dreary Reno lounge. Recruited by the FBI to join the high-stakes tournament convened by criminal mastermind Feng (Christopher Walken), he hones his rusty skills with master Wong (James Hong), who melds Mr. Miyagi with Mr. Magoo. Wong's hotter-than-Szechwan niece Maggie (Maggie Q) begins as his training partner but quickly becomes the bumbling Randy's sweetheart. With her encouragement he goes mano-a-paddle with Olympic nemesis Karl Wolfschtagg (Lennon) in a showdown where loss means literal sudden death.
"Balls of Fury" revels in dumb gags, aggressively cheesy production design and over-the-top performances. Fogler, with the manic energy of a young John Belushi, makes his role a showcase for physical comedy, and the 78-year-old Hong is a treasure.
But the sprinkles on the sundae are provided by Walken, absurdly miscast and loving every moment of it. He makes the foppish Feng a creature with a delightfully twisted comic sensibility. Inviting Randy for a stroll, he promises, "I won't bite. Not where it can be seen." OK line, but it's winsome wrinkle of his nose that sells it.
For all its sloppiness, "Balls of Fury" is full of those details that make movies like this funny.
BALLS OF FURY
2 ½ stars
Starring: Dan Fogler,
Directed by: Ben Garant, Christopher Walken, James Hong, Maggie Q
Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, and for language