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Balls of Fury has nearly all the elements that make The King of Kong a success—a nerdy pseudo-sport, characters that can politely be described as eccentric, an obsession with the ’80s—yet the music to Donkey Kong will stick in your head longer than this disaster. Born of Reno 911! creators and stars Robert Ben Garant (writer-director) and Thomas Lennon (writer-co-star), Balls of Fury barely even counts as a one-joke movie, considering that the sloppy former table-tennis champion who serves as its main sight gag isn’t very funny.
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Cringingly unsuccessful Jack Black wannabe Dan Fogler is Randy Daytona, a one-time Ping-Pong prodigy whose defeat in the 1988 Olympics resulted in his gambling father’s death. Nineteen years later, Randy is still digging Def Leppard and headbands but no longer competes, instead eking an existence out of performing Ping-Pong-related stunts at a dinner theater favored by the elderly. One day, an FBI agent (George Lopez) enlists his help in catching Feng (Christopher Walken), some kind of criminal table-tennis overlord who killed Randy’s father. In order to get close to Feng, Randy needs to be invited to his underground competition, which means receiving training at the hands of a blind Chinese man (James Hong) and his lithe-but-fierce niece (Maggie Q).
If you’re waiting to read about the funny parts, you just did. Garant and Lennon bring a vague sense of Reno 911! silliness to Balls of Fury, but set against the series’ best episodes, it feels like the first draft from a couple of guys who drunkenly slurred “Let’s make a movie!” after stumbling home from karaoke night. How else could they defend what feels like dozens of jokes about prostitutes? And a love interest—poor Maggie Q—who literally hates Randy in one go-nowhere scene and is kissing him in the next? And here’s an easy game: Guess what’s coming when the FBI guys say that a communication device needs to travel with Randy “the old-fashioned way.” Gas, groin kicks, and a random pet panda—ha ha, it’s dead!—are also dragged out for so-called laughs.
Fogler, all hair, chub, and unfunny mugging, is as unpleasant as the attempts at humor are exhausting. Even Walken can’t redeem a minute of this mess, though his contribution might have been a little amusing had the trailers not given it away. Allow me to throw one of Balls of Fury’s lines right back at it, courtesy of Randy’s boss when he gets fired: “Get your stink out of my theater.”