Release Date: December 18, 2007
Rating: 2 ½ ½ /
Starring: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, Thomas Lennon and Robert Patrick
Written by: Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant
Directed by: Robert Ben Garant
Balls of Fury is a spoof of Bruce Lee martial arts films from the makers of Reno 911! that substitutes ping pong for martial arts in many relevant scenes. A few karate moves are still performed here and there by Maggie Q, but the emphasis here is on table tennis. The movie is engineered to be a fast and fun ride, with various comedy setups arranged in a row, much like an action film is constructed with chases and fights. The plot more or less follows the story of Enter the Dragon, albeit with ping pong battles, with some nods to other films thrown in for good measure. There’s even a sly wink to Never Say Never Again if you’re really looking for it. Dan Fogler has a good time playing ping pong and portraying the kind of part Sam Kinison or Chris Farley could have played a few years back. Christopher Walken, of course, has a good time playing Christopher Walken. The movie moves along pretty quickly and is generally amusing. It’s not particularly deep or memorable, but with a title like that, you probably aren’t expecting that anyway.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
Balls of Fury is presented in a 1.85:1 transfer that works fine in terms of presenting a variety of colourful costumes and settings while preserving accurate fleshtones. The most outrageous costumes, of course, are modeled by Walken, and the picture here shows the purples, reds, and blacks at their most intentionally garish. It’s not exceptionally sharp, nor is it exceptionally detailed. But again, given the kind of film we’re talking about, it doesn’t need to be either of those things.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
Balls of Fury is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English and French that, like the picture, does a fine job without being too showy. The action is pretty much in the front channels, but there is a little use of the surrounds for music and some atmospheric effects. As with the video quality, the audio here isn’t exceptional, but doesn’t really need to be.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 ½/5 ½
Balls of Fury has less than 30 minutes of bonus features. On the other hand, all of them are in anamorphic widescreen.
Alternate Ending (1:51, Anamorphic) – A mercifully short alternate ending is included here. This ending actually hints at a sequel, which may one of the reasons why it wasn’t used.
Deleted Scenes – (6:39 total, Anamorphic) - Several deleted scenes and scene extensions are presented here, offering a few character moments and jokes that don’t quite come off.
Balls Out: The Making of BALLS OF FURY - (13:57 Total, Anamorphic) – This good-natured featurette primarily consists of interview material with Reno 911! vets Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant talking about their ideas for the film. Both openly acknowledge that they were intending to make a martial arts spoof with ping pong substituted for karate. The usual mutual compliments among the cast and creators are intercut with on-set footage and clips from the film. If anything, the on-set footage is instructive, as it shows how little ping pong was actually played in making the film. The ping pong technical advisors contribute here by discussing how their coaching was meant to make the pantomime moves look real once the CGI ping pong balls were added in.
Under the Balls: The Life of a Ball Wrangler - (5:17, Anamorphic) - This brief mockumentary features Irina Voronina (seen in the film very briefly as a ping pong coach) as the unsung “ball wrangler” for the production. As you can gather, this is essentially a series of silly jokes, which culminates in what appears to have been a staged prank on the cast and crew.
Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with an optional series of non-anamorphic previews including The Strangers, American Pie: Delta House, the new HD-DVD preview and Balls of Fury: The Game.
IN THE END...
Balls of Fury is a relatively harmless comedy that will appeal to Bruce Lee and martial arts fans, as well as Christopher Walken fans. It’s nothing that will stay with you for longer than five minutes after you see it, but it’s worth a rental if you’re interested.
December 21, 2007.