HD DVD Title: Balls of Fury
Screen format: 1080P, 1.85:1, VC-1 encoded HD
First theatrical release: 29 August, 2007
Other DVD or HD Releases: Day and date with standard and anamorphic widescreen DVDs
Director: Robert Ben Garant
Starring: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, James Hong, Diedrich Bader, Thomas Lennon
Sound Formats: English Dolby True HD 5.1, English & French DD Plus 5.1
Length: 1 Hour 31 Minutes
Subtitles: English & French
Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, primarily known for screwball TV series “The State” and “Reno 911”, return with Balls of Fury, a slapstick homage to their favorite Kung Fu action movies with a twist: instead of featuring buff combatants who have finely tuned their bodies into killing machines, these competitors are mostly average Joes who have learned the subtle art of Ping Pong. The stakes are just as deadly however, as our hero, Randy Daytona (Fogler) has been recruited by FBI agent Ernie Rodriguez (Lopez) to infiltrate the ultimate in sudden death Ping Pong Tournaments, hosted by notorious madman Feng (Walken), the creep who killed Daytona’s father (Robert Patrick). Feng’s got his fingers into all kinds of evil stuff, including prostitution and gambling, but his new specialty is untraceable firearms that can slip through security screening. The problem is Daytona hasn’t played professionally since he was 12, when a fluke accident against crazed German Ping Pong champion Karl Wolfschtagg (Lennon) he lost and his father got killed over a losing bet on him. With the help of an aging blind Ping Pong guru, Master Wong (Hong) and his sexy and seriously skilled Ping Pong master daughter, Maggie Wong (Q), Daytona will have to prove that this Gwailo (literally "round eye", slang for occidental/outsider) is tough enough to beat the beat the best the Chinese have to offer, the dreaded “Dragon” and get invited to (and win!) Feng’s deadly tournament so the FBI can bust him.
If this sounds hilarious to you, well, this might be the right movie for you, but I got bored quickly and stayed there. I’m not opposed to demented humor at all, but this one just never got cooking. There’s plenty of little chuckles and a few inspired characters (especially Wolfschtagg and Jason Scott Lee’s Siu-Foo, and perhaps the funniest character is the briefest of cameos by “Everyone hates Chris” actor Terry Crews), but the bulk of the laughs are supposed to be from Walken just being Walken and Daytona getting hit in the… balls… and neither were all that funny to me. Overall I didn’t find a whole lot of memorable one liners, any lasting appeal to the film, or anything else outside of the usual “so stupid that it’s funny” mass market target that I could really dig into.
Sound Quality: 4/5
Sound quality is generally excellent, with the soundtrack’s focus lasered in on 80’s metal monsters Def Leppard and a variety of other “hair bands’. The computer generated Ping Pong balls all sound authentic, and there are a number of “bullet time” sweeps in action that are accompanied by some decent cross channel pans that brought a smile. There’s even some decent bass during a few minor explosions and gunfights, and during a Kung Fu scene where Maggie Q got to show off. Sound certainly wasn’t the focus of the production here but they didn’t forget about it either. In a nutshell, it was a little bit better than one would have expected for this type of movie.
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
Balls looks about as good as you would expect a 2007 vintage low budget comedy to look: Mostly sharp with decent color and but not breathtakingly beautiful. There’s quite a bit of grain and the movie is very dark in many places, but I wasn’t really distracted by either and I suspect they are just as good as the original theatrical presentation. Where the film does shine is in the computer generated Ping Pong balls, especially in the Reno lounge act that Daytona finds himself in and in the epic volleys between Daytona and his opponents. I didn’t note any print damage or edge enhancement at least, it seems like a relatively clean transfer.
Extra Features: 3/5
There are a half dozen deleted scenes and an alternate ending that are all presented in HD, which is a nice touch but I wasn’t too thrilled with the movie and neither of these had me laughing any more than that did. What WAS interesting was a half hour long “Making of” titled “Balls out” which really delved into the genesis of this story and how they managed to get Walken to do this part and that they got their ‘dream team’ of supporting cast when he signed up. I wish there had been a bit more on Fogler, as I had never heard of him before and he seems to be an interesting mix of Jack Black and Sam Kinison, but there was only a minimal amount of interaction with him, and as the writers note his role was supposed to be a kind of anti-hero to start with. There’s also a terrible fake featurette titled “Under the Balls” that I would plead with Universal to stop doing. These kinds of dumb featurettes have been getting more and more pervasive and they stink. What also stinks is Universal’s dumb idea requiring you to actually create an account to watch two additional “Web Enabled” featurettes. Here’s a free clue for you Uni: If I want to watch web featurettes I’ll do it from a real browser that doesn’t need to track me for the privilege. Dumb!
Overall: 2.5/5 (not an average)
As noted I can’t even recommend Balls as something so dumb that it’s funny. There are a few minor giggles but most of the real humor comes from the excellent supporting cast and not from the ‘stars’. It looks pretty good and there is decent but not impressive sound, but I can’t even really recommend the extras either, and Universal needs to put and end to their silly requirement for a login and password to get to web enabled extra features. If you can’t fit it on the disk, don’t do it. If you HAVE to put it on the web, don’t treat your paying customers (who had to have paid over 20 for this combo disk to begin with!) at least let them just hit a button to get to it without a hassle. Pass.