Sony // 2008 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 16th, 2009
Small balls. Big ambition.
Tennis, strippers, and Seann William Scott (Mr. Woodcock) in too-short shorts team up for an aggressively mediocre straight-to-DVD hard-R comedy.
A once proud tennis stud, Gary (Scott), kissed his ambitions goodbye when caught cheating before a big match. Now he's barely scraping out a living as a high school janitor...until an opportunity presents itself to reclaim some of that old tennis glory. When the tennis coach (Randy Quaid, in a vanishing role) drops dead, Gary gets the call to take his -- are you ready for this? -- hapless but lovable group of underachievers to the state championships. There will be gross nudity and vomiting along the way.
The premise had some potential and I'm a big Seann William Scott fan, but it's obvious why Balls Out never felt the warm embrace of anything other than the Blockbuster new release rack. It's just not very funny and to make up for the dearth of genuine wit, the writers have opted for the cheap way out, namely small children shouting profanity. Actually, the whole movie is potty-mouthed and, while I'm not opposed to these raunchy comedic excursions in principle, when the swearing and gross-out gags are used as a cover for weak writing, that's when I run out of patience...and I was willing to give Balls Out patience.
There were flickers of brilliance, particularly when the film went after the tired conceits of the typical "Plucky Kids Succeeding Against the Odds Sports Movie." For instance, Gary goes the "ringer" angle, a plotline we have all seen flogged to death; he imports a Philipino ping-pong genius with a crazy father (that guy is pretty funny, actually) in a way to push his team over the top and it doesn't end well. See, that's clever and also rare. Whenever the writing flirts with this high-end approach, it's not long before the humor defaults to empty and sometimes bizarre scatological humor (Gary's vision of a cross-dressing Randy Quaid is a mind@#$%).
Seann William Scott is pretty great, though. Obviously no stranger to comedies -- gross-out or otherwise -- Scott takes on a different character here. Gary is a loser, very similar to Woody Harrelson's washed-up bowling pro from Kingpin, and that never stops. There aren't any straight lines for Gary, as he remains oblivious and, well, creepy from start to finish. It's a funny role and it's unfortunate Scott was surrounded by such creative disappointment.
The DVD is standard-issue. Picture quality comes through well in a tight 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, supplemented by a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix. Extras: a forgettable making-of featurette, deleted scenes, and outtakes.
There was promise in the idea, but Balls Out is...I don't enough about the sport to come up with an applicable tennis metaphor for failure.
Guilty. Keep your balls in next time.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel