I sometimes wonder at the winding paths that lead me to some films. When I request a video from the library, by the time it arrives months later, I'll have no memory of what possessed me to have placed such an order. Such was the case when my queue recently provided me with Balls of Fury: based on the title alone, it didn't seem like something that'd suit my taste. Fortunately, I gave it a closer look and was rewarded with a rip-snorting good time.
Like The Ringer, Balls of Fury is a comedy from the "absurdly-implausible-but-not-impossible" genre (unlike, say, Airplane or Superhero Movie). Relatively unknown Dan Fogler plays Randy Daytona, a 31-year-old has-been who lost the 1988 Olympics ping-pong tournament. His failure there led to the death of his father (Robert Patrick), casting Randy to purposeless drifting — until now. The FBI needs a man of Randy's unique skills to infiltrate a Chinese smuggling ring. To do so, he must prove himself one of the best players in the world, training under the great Master Wong and his daughter, Maggie.
For such a silly show, it has a surprisingly star-studded cast. George Lopez plays a government agent happy to be out from behind his desk but frustrated by such a silly assignment — a sometimes straight, sometimes maniacal complement to Fogler's goofy incompetence. James Hong, who's been doing these kinds of films since well before Big Trouble in Little China, is the purportedly wise, always blind sensei. His daughter, played by Maggie Q (of recent Die Hard 4 fame), packs plenty of talent into an attractive frame. There's even a sudden and surprising martial arts fight sequence that gives her a brief but welcome opportunity to demonstrate her martial arts skills, though it occurs early in the film with no similarly prominent displays to be seen again.
But what made me able to appreciate all these elements was the perfect combo that preceded it: the film title and box art. Anything called Balls of Fury that comes in a case sporting Christopher Walken dressed like a Chinese Elton John cannot be expected to be very sophisticated. Sure enough, there were plenty of ball jokes, crotch shots, and exploitation and mockery of stereotypes (including of Germans, Asians, and gays). It's exactly what I thought it would be, and for that reason, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It may be low-brow, but that doesn't mean it isn't also clever. Next to other sports spoofs like Dodgeball, Balls of Fury sweeps the competition.