Universal // 2007 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // December 22nd, 2007
A huge comedy with tiny balls
If you think a little Asian girl kicking a fat, white man between the legs is the height of comedy, this film is for you.
Disgraced former child ping-pong prodigy Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler, Good Luck Chuck) is recruited by an FBI agent (George Lopez, Fatal Instinct) to take down evil mastermind Feng (Christopher Walken, The Dead Zone), who just happened to kill Randy's father. To prepare for Feng's ping-pong tournament of champions, Daytona enlists the aid of Master Wong (James Hong, The Shadow) and his niece (Maggie Q, Mission: Impossible III) to train him. Revenge must be served.
Movie critics (at least those in print) do their most important work when they get the opportunity to champion forgotten films, bringing attention to works that have been unjustly ignored. Because this can't happen every day, the bread and butter of most critics seems to be deciding which current socially conscious drama is more worthy of attention than the others. However, most critics seem to be at their most useless when they review comedies and horror films. In both cases, films that get raked over the coals go on to make triple their budget at the box office. So, I'm not gonna talk too much about the merits of Balls of Fury, as the trailer serves much better as a recommender. It gives away a number of the film's better moments, but also sets up the film's M.O.: martial arts parody, Asian cultural misunderstanding, and lots of physical comedy involving violence to the testicular region. If you saw the trailer and thought "Hey, this looks cool," then you'll want to at least rent Balls of Fury. If instead you thought, "That might be the dumbest movie this year," then you're probably right and should avoid the film at all costs.
I was in the former camp, thinking that the trailer looked clever enough to warrant a viewing, especially with Christopher Walken as Feng. The movie had some good nods to other martial arts films (think Enter The Dragon and its ilk), a couple of funny lines, and the aforementioned Mr. Walken, who I always love to watch. I don't feel like I wasted my time with Balls of Fury, but I didn't come away with any quotable lines, and I have no desire to ever see the film again. There's really nothing new here. Fogler does a fine job as Randy, but all the visual gags are tired. Specifically, there are only so many ways to damage a man's genitals, and this film tries them all. Sure, I shouldn't expect much from a film with "balls" in the title, but I was hoping that the film could add something cleverer to the mix.
Although the trailer is probably what got most people into the theater, it's a double-edged sword. Christopher Walken's reveal as Feng would have been much more effective if it was a surprise, instead of seeing so much of him in the trailer (the same could be said of most of the film's gags as well). He is very much in his SNL mode, mugging for the camera, and I'm envious of people who sit down to watch Balls of Fury cold, not knowing who Feng is, as the surprise of seeing Walken would make the film even more enjoyable. Less enjoyable is George Lopez as an FBI agent; he's very stiff and dry like William Shatner, which doesn't really fit his character. James Hong gets to riff on the "Asian master" stereotype, although the blind twist was obnoxious. The rest of the cast does pretty well with the material, but I would like to have seen more of some of the minor characters, like Patton Oswalt as the regional champ.
The presentation of Balls of Fury is what HD DVD is all about. Obviously films that have a special-effects budget the size of many countries' GDP look great in HD, but films like Balls of Fury make it obvious that HD just looks better than DVD. The film has no bravura camera movements, spectacular special effects, or crazy shifts in film stock, but it looks wonderful on this HD DVD, without ever pulling me out of the movie enough to go "Hey, this is in HD." There is a lot of detail, especially in close-ups, with no grain that I saw. Most of the film has a bright, even tone, but even the seedy, back-alley ping-pong matches look good. The audio did a fine job with the music and the dialogue, keeping everything balanced.
The extras are pretty slight. The deleted scenes and alternate ending were a waste, with nary a laugh to be found. The making-of featurette was worth watching, and I laughed more in its 13 minutes than I did in the 90 minutes of the film. The "ball wrangler" featurette is an excuse to have a blonde woman walk around in short-shorts. The joke, beyond the obvious fact that a woman wanders around talking about balls, is that the balls in the film are, for the most part, digital and therefore do not need wrangling. Everyone gets in on the fun, and it made me laugh a few times. A commentary track is sorely missed, as these guys seem to hit the comedy mark a lot more in the extras than they did in the film.
I watched this film with a group of friends, and by far I had the most positive feelings for the film. The other reactions ranged from indifferent to "couldn't stand to finish it." Take even my tentative recommendation with a grain of salt.
It's kinda sad, but the best part of the movie for me was during the end credits, when Christopher Walken helps sing a karaoke version of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." For those who liked the film in the theaters, this HD presentation is easy to recommend, with strong audio/visual presentation. Those who liked the trailer will find something to like in the film, so I recommend a rental if you haven't seen the film yet. For everyone else, it's not a total waste of time, but don't go out of your way to see it.
Balls of Fury is found guilty of attempting to tamper with the martial arts genre. The creators are ordered to attend training with a master before attempting another parody.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Ending
* "Balls Out: The Making of Balls of Fury"
* "Under the Balls: The Life of a Ball Wrangler"
* Official Site
* Original DVD Verdict Review