Balls of Fury
When Parody Becomes Too Narrow

There’s nothing like a great parody of sports enthusiasm (particularly Jackie Chan-type parodies of martial arts) with a little FBI interference and a lot of laughs to get you from one scene to the next.

And Balls of Fury is nothing like said great parody.

Now, I should preface my comments by saying that I have never forced myself to sit through an entire Chan movie, simply because the outlandish silliness far exceeds my own personal (and highly enigmatic) Feature Film Quota for Hamminess and Unbelievability. Honestly, I enjoy parodies, but when the genre being parodied is one with which I am (deliberately) unfamiliar, all the humor in the world isn’t going to make the film a standout in my book.

Christopher Walken as Feng in Balls of FuryOn the positive side, however, the audience with which I screened this film (including my husband) enjoyed the wackiness of an underground ping-pong mafia of sorts.

Randy Daytona is a used-to-be. Long ago, in his tortured childhood, he was a table tennis dynamo, who, twenty years after leaving the sport, is hooked back into it when an FBI agent approaches him about a sting operation through which his father’s killer (a ping-pong undergrounder, Feng) may finally be brought to justice. The rest of the film is a somewhat drawn-out montage (minus the music) of watching Turner try to regain his long-lost ping-pong powers in time for the high-stakes match.

Again, the disclaimer: this isn’t my most favorite genre, and I am completely ignorant of the style of such parodies. The physical humor that Dan Fogler exhibits during his character’s two-week training course (and his ping-pong style) was humorous enough to keep the promotional screening audience plenty entertained—they got what they came for, which is certainly important to note.

The production qualities are fairly good as well, with plenty of verbal sparring intermingled with the physical sport itself. Unfortunately, the humor is so broad-based as to seem hollow—not substantial enough for a hearty laugh, but good enough for an occasional chuckle or grin.

The mystery to me (and to my husband, just for the record) was the rating. The film is rated PG-13 “for crude and sex-related humor, and for language.” Honestly, except for one scene in which the always-unpredictable and slightly creepy Christopher Walken cuts loose a bit, the film could have held to a “G” rating without a problem. But the target audience isn’t exactly out for G-rated films, so Walken had to fill the comedic void with a few blankety-blanks, just to raise the film to the target PG-13, I guess.

Balls of Fury is a (mostly) safe family film, though I doubt anyone unfamiliar with the parodied martial arts genre (such as, say, kids) will find it laugh-out-loud funny. But for those who do enjoy such films, this may be a real kick in the pants.

I should mention, too, that the obvious jokes which the title invokes are completely absent. The only balls discussed are the one in the sport, so the raunch factor stays really low.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jenn attended a promotional screening of Balls of Fury.