Universal Studios Home Video presents
Balls Of Fury (2007)
"Ping Pong is not the macarena. It takes patience. She is like a fine, well-aged prostitute; it takes years to learn her tricks. She is cruel. Laughs at you when you are naked. But you keep coming back for more. And more! Why? Because she is the only prostitute I can afford."- Master Wong (James Hong)
Stars: Dan Fogler, Maggie Q, Christopher Walken, George Lopez
Other Stars: James Hong, Thomas Lennon, Robert Patrick, Diedrich Bader, Jason Scott Lee, Aisha Tyler, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Patton Oswalt, Toby Huss, David Koechner, Terry Crews, Kerry Kenney-Silver, Jim Lampley, Na Shi La, David Proval, Heather DeLoach, Brett DelBuono, David Holmes, Irina Voronina, Masi Oka
Director: Robert Ben Garant
Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, and language
Run Time: 01h:30m:21s
Release Date: 2007-12-18
DVD ReviewBalls Of Fury is an absurdist homage of sorts to Bruce Lee's 1973 high-kicking classic Enter The Dragon, only this time substituting ping pong for martial arts. And yes, it is a comedy.
Written by Reno! 911's Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (he also directed)—and featuring a number of Reno regulars—Balls Of Fury doesn't require having seen Bruce Lee's opus to get the funny, but having some awareness of the original does give this another layer of reverential humor that at the very least makes this project seem a bit more clever than it appears on the surface.
Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) is the quickly disgraced child prodigy on the international table tennis circuit, globally shamed in 1988 by spiky-haired Teutonic ping pong machine Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon). With a promising career destroyed (to say nothing of what happens to his father), Daytona ends up working a schlocky Reno stage act to disinterested audiences, a shadow of his former self. The story really hits more familiar Enter The Dragon territory when FBI agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez) approaches Daytona with an offer to get back in the game and infiltrate a high-stakes underground table tennis tournament run by mysterious Asian crime boss Feng (Christopher Walken).
Relative newcomer Fogler—at least as far as lead roles are concerned—begs some immediate Jack Black comparisons, but aside from some physical resemblances he wisely avoids Black's annoying habit of constant bug-eyed mugging. That leaves him plenty of time to get hit in the crotch or fall down, and in between all of that there's the chance for him to actually play Daytona as an almost subdued comic lead, exasperated and frustrated, but not as the overused genre requisite of the loud buffoon (what I refer to as the Will Ferrell Syndrome). I cringed a little expecting something much more abruptly manic from Fogler, and it was pleasantly unexpected just how much off the mark I ended up being.
But let's jump back a paragraph or two to Christopher Walken as an Asian crime boss. That's a genuine "what the..." moment, and it is where Balls Of Fury bounds into true weirdo comedy territory, with Walken doling out yet another of those deftly self-parodying comic performances, the kind where he's required to wear crazy wigs and colorful outfits, and spout equally crazy dialogue. And what's with that accent? Somehow Walken's presence doesn't come across so much like stunt casting, and he fits into Garant's ensemble cast pretty well, working the villain role with disinterested menace.
There's the obligatory training segment—with Daytona coming under the tutelage of blind Master Wong (Big Trouble In Little China's David Hong)—the love interest of the master's ping pong-playing niece Maggie (Maggie Q), and naturally the big tournament full of colorful opponents that gives new meaning to the term "sudden death". I may have anticipated more outright bellylaughs than this one actually delivered, what with the Reno! 911 background, but that's not to say this was anything approaching dreadful. It's lightweight, but assembled nicely and even though it's not difficult to know how the story will play out, it breezes along at a quick clip, full of amusing CGI ping pong battles.
The limits of the PG-13 structure certainly curtail the potential for perhaps some more mature humor that could have given this one more bite, but it is satisfactorily dumb without being too full of itself.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Balls Of Fury has been issued in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen from Universal. Overall image quality is a slight stepdown from the HD transfer (available separately), but for a silly little sophomoric comedy the need for razor sharp edges and deep blacks is not necessarily a dealbreaker. Colors here generally look presentable, balanced by natural hues to the fleshtones throughout, and facial features reveal a moderate amount of detail. A few sequences - such as a hotel scene with Fogler and Lopez that comes across noticeably faded and dark - do not retain the consistency to make the quality constant for the duration. Otherwise, no evidence of print debris or blemishes.
Suitable for the material, yet hardly a reference disc.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The primary audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Not a terribly aggressive mix - what with all the potential for ricocheting ping pong balls and the like - and it doesn't come close to overtaxing itself. Voice clarity is never an issue, and there's a fairly natural sense of directionality across the front channels, but not much else to highlight as extraordinary.
A French 5.1 dub is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Strangers, The Office, American Pie Presents: Beta House, Balls Of Fury video game, HD-DVD
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
Extras Review: Extras are on the light side, kicking of with a set of seven deleted scenes (06m:40s) and an alternate ending (01m:52) that has "let's do a sequel" written all over it. A pair of featurettes include the typical EPK of Balls Out: The Making Of Balls Of Fury (13m:58s) and a silly mock doc entitled Under The Balls: The Life Of A Ball Wrangler (05m:18s), in which the well-endowed Irina Voronina wears very short shorts and spends five minutes making more "balls" jokes than I thought existed.
The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsNot as many big laughs as I was expecting—given the involvement of the Reno! 911 people—but Balls Of Fury writhes around in its own glib dumbness rather efficiently. A few too many hit-in-the-crotch jokes for my tastes, but the cast keep the silliness within comfortably digestible limits, especially Thomas Lennon and another mondo bizarro turn for Christopher Walken.
Add it to your rainy day rental queue.
Rich Rosell 2008-04-17