Movie Reviews: Balls Of Fury

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PINGPONG MOVIE POINTLESS

Ray Baxter, senior reviewer

When you think of all the movies that have lit up the silver screen over the years, you might assume pretty much everything related to sports competition has been covered, major and minor. But I believe "Balls of Fury" may be the first to use table tennis as its backdrop theme.

The movie begins at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Randy Daytona is the 12-year-old American hopeful ready to face an overactive East German champ (played by Thomas Lennon who is also the producer and co-writer of this movie) in an important match. Randy not only loses the match, but just before going unconscious, utters, "I'm going to Disneyland," which haunts him for the rest of the movie. But that's far from the worst -- Randy's dad (Robert Patrick) is killed by a Chinese gang, who had bet heavily on Randy to win.

Fast-forward 19 years to present day and Randy (the adult played by Dan Fogler) is a ping-pong wizard just about to be fired from a lounge act in Reno. He is approached by FBI Agent Rodriguez (George Lopez) to be the linchpin in a supposedly elaborate plan to qualify in a secret pingpong tournament sponsored by the infamous Feng (Christopher Walken), who just happens to be the man responsible for the death of Randy's dad.

Randy now undergoes a rigorous training under the tutelage of Master Wong (James Hong plays this part and while his name might not be a household brand, I am sure you will recognize his face from the countless movies he has appeared in) and his niece Maggie (played by the sexy marshal arts expert Maggie Q). The training pays off and Randy is invited to participate in the highly secret tournament with the end result of spelling doom for Feng.

Despite Christopher Walken's presence, even his wonderful acting skills cannot save this movie.

Yes, there are times when I chuckled, but they were all too far and few between. The majority of the skits were just not funny. However, to be honest, there were six young teenagers sitting in front of me who laughed a lot more than I did.

On a positive note, the scenes involving the pingpong play were pretty fantastic in the way they were shot and portrayed. But that alone cannot save a movie that is literally up the river without a paddle. In a word this movie was "pointless."

GOOD FOR A MINDLESS LAUGH

by Lucy Schouten, teen reviewer

What would you say if I told you it involved a Chinese riddle, Dora the Explorer, and an underground pingpong championship under FBI surveillance? The movie is "Balls of Fury" -- a strange comedy of small white balls and murder in a dark alley. Pingpong may not be everyone's forte, but Dan Fogler and Christopher Walken keep things rolling, or smacking. After all, "Pingpong ain't no macarena."

The opening news clip covers the exciting story of a U.S. national champ, Randy Daytona. The Olympic theme, stirring backhand, and roaring crowd of the ping-pong championships defeat the 12-year-old star of the paddle. Having betted unwisely on the game, Daytona's father is murdered by the elusive Feng, a powerful Oriental gangster.

Many years later, the FBI agent, Ernie Rodriquez, (George Lopez) visits Randy, requesting the pingpong has-been's help. Rodriquez plans to catch Feng by sending Randy to Feng's underground test of ping-pong. In order to brush up on his skills, Randy studies the basics with Wong (James Hong) and his beguiling niece (Maggie Q), the guardians of the game and teachers of a school for ping-pong. Even with his increased skill, Randy needs a great deal of courage and ingenuity to master the game, conquer his fears, and avenge his father's death.

Christopher Walken appears to delight in playing villains, and certainly caused the viewer no small amusement. Dressed "like he shops at Elton John's garage sales," his outlandish schemes are appallingly funny. No one can beat Maggie Q, who beats up Chinese musclemen and delivers a fierce backhand with a wooden spoon. Her uncle, Master Wong, is the hilarious blind pingpong master, the coach with a single closing line and no idea where he is.

From a back-alley game master with a Lisa Frank backpack to a dead lucky cricket, "Balls of Fury" is a brainless and mildly creative comedy. It should be fun for someone who wants to laugh without thought, although it can be crude and a PG-13 should be taken seriously. One disturbing scene made me faintly nauseated, but if you can overcome that, laugh through "Balls of Fury."

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