Review: ‘Balls of Fury’ has a pingpong effect

As parodies of Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” go, “Balls of Fury” is neither as clever nor as concise as “A Fistful of Yen,” the 30-minute centerpiece of “Kentucky Fried Movie” that skewers the clichés of the martial-arts genre with savage precision. At an otherwise economical 90 minutes, “Balls of Fury” struggles to sustain momentum, often sputtering to a near-standstill as scene after scene falls resoundingly flat.

And yet it isn’t an abject disaster. As the latest in a series of absurdist comedies satirizing fringe sports and the athletically unimpressive misfits who play them, it is smarter than “Blades of Glory” and more genial than “Dodgeball.” The script, by “Reno 911!” creators Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, features moments of real inspiration — often followed, a bit too predictably, by a swift kick to someone’s crotch.

Frequently, that someone is Randy Daytona (Tony Award-winner Dan Fogler) a onetime ping-pong prodigy now grown into a thirtysomething slacker with an unkempt mane of curly hair and a quivering double chin. After losing his job at the Peppermill Casino in Reno, he is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a top-secret table-tennis tournament thrown annually by one of the world’s foremost super-villains, Feng (Christopher Walken).

Walken, whose famously wry deadpan wrings laughs out of deliberately corny lines like “Okie dokey, artichokey” — standard super-villain banter, really — is the main attraction here, though Fogler and James Hong (“Wayne’s World 2”) capably hold up their end.

“Balls” is an uneven but painless experience, with enough chuckles to compensate, almost, for its inescapable boorishness and fits-and-starts pacing. Most likely to appreciate it are fans of the paddle sport, the flawless physical form of Maggie Q, and Def Leppard, providers of the film’s pulsating soundtrack.

Balls of Fury **½

Starring Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, James Hong, Thomas Lennon

Written by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant

Directed by Robert Ben Garant

Rated PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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