Review: 'Balls of Fury' double faults

Tournament ping-pong constitutes the loose thread on which this farcical story hangs sight gags, Kung –Fu parodies and hit-and-miss foolishness.

Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler), a 12-year-old table-tennis phenom, is an odds-on favorite to win the gold metal in the Olympics. His dad (Robert Patrick) thinks so, laying a large bet that he has no collateral to back. He makes the wager with very sinister Asian dudes—arms crossed, shaved heads, black suits, no emotion. Not smart.

The games begin, and Randy draws a mean buffed-up opponent from the now defunct Soviet bloc, Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon), a holdover from back when the commies were cheating with steroids. Can you imagine?

Randy, going all out to return a shot, takes a tumble and knocks himself out, forfeiting the game and his father’s life.

He regains consciousness on live TV. Thinking himself the winner he exclaims “I’m going to Disneyland,” which become a taunt that follows him throughout the film. This embarrassment before a world audience and the responsibility of his father’s death is too much to bear. Randy leaves the building.

Fast forward. Two decades have past and the former table-tennis jock works a dive in Reno. A stage act, he paddles balls against a wall like a juggler, keeping several going at once.

That’s where FBI agent Ernie Rodriquez (George Lopez) finds him. The once handsome and fit young man is now overweight and unkempt. Rodriquez needs the onetime prodigy to infiltrate the dark underbelly of the ping-pong world where huge sums are wagered onunsanctioned matches.

To accomplish this, the ponger must secure an invitation to a private tournament, hosted by the notorious Feng (Christopher Walken), who heads the syndicate responsible for the death of his father.

His skills, gone rusty after years out of competition makes this an improbable strategy. The only hope lies in securing the guidance of the venerable ping-pong and martial arts master Wong (James Hong). Fat chance.

After more than a few objections and complications, the sightless Asian sage (the eastern counterpart of the blind black blues guitarist) consents. He assigns his attractive niece Maggie (Maggie Q) to whom his considerable skills were bequeathed, as Randy’s instructor.

“Balls of Fury” is another Babe and the Doofus movie. And Maggie Q is definitely a babe. But this is not like Beauty and the Beast or a fairy tale. You can kiss this frog all you want and all you’re going to get is warty lips.

With the help of Maggie and the master, Randy makes it into the tournament. Here Feng, also a former student of the master, now gone to the dark side, presides over the match’s macabre rules and malevolent agenda.

Our drama reaches its climax, with balls flying everywhere, and our reluctant hero locked in battle with the man who killed his father.

Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, creators of “Reno 911,” “Herby Fully Loaded” and a “Night in the Museum,” use a mix of their previous approaches in “Balls of Fury,” an awkward mix of improvisation and script.

The resulting humor succeeds only sporadically and feels like a tease that as time goes on, exposes itself as being nothing more.

Watch the “Balls of Fury Trailer.”

Grade:D

Lester Gray reviews movies for Examiner.com. Read all the Examiner movie critics' reviews.

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