I like ping-pong. It’s a fun sport. It’s not all that popular, at least as far as I can tell. Balls of Fury, unfortunately, will not increase its popularity. For a film to do that, it needs to be good, or at least entertaining enough to keep its audience engaged. This isn’t the case here. Balls of Fury has a few laughs, but not enough to warrant a watch.
The film opens up with a 12-year-old child losing an important table tennis match. His name is Randy Daytona. After losing, we fast forward approximately 20 years. Daytona (played as an adult by Dan Fogler) is now performing matinée acts just to get by. He gets approached by an FBI agent (George Lopez), who tells him that his unique skill set is required in order to catch a man by the name of Feng. Feng is hosting a “sudden death” tournament, in which only the best ping-pong players in the world are invited.
But Randy hasn’t competed in years, and is rusty. He needs to go through training in order to get invited to this tournament. He enlists the help of a blind man named Master Wong (James Hong) in order to get him prepared. If you don’t see how the rest of the film will go from this point, you probably need to watch more movies. There’s one big twist near the end of the film that you likely won’t see coming, although even then, it isn’t that large of a surprise. And even then, it doesn’t end up mattering.
The thing is, for a film like this to be enjoyable, it needs to be funny. Balls of Fury, to put it bluntly, isn’t humorous. There are a few moments within when you will laugh, but not many. The jokes are stale, running gags aren’t funny the first time, let alone any time afterwards, and the majority of the film just falls flat.
If there’s one part of the film that’s good, it’s the unique cast of characters we meet throughout. Daytona is interesting, as are the rest of the people in the film. The other ping-pong players are all over-the-top characters, but they’re all unique and keep things fresh. George Lopez’s character actually ends up getting the most laughs, playing the straight man regardless of everything else that goes on in the film.
What almost could have saved the film was its ending. Had the ending actually been climactic, maybe it would have been worth watching up to it. It could have been very impressive, and it could have been really exciting, but it just falls flat. You know going in that there will be one final table tennis match, the only question is how it will go down. To be blunt, it isn’t exciting, and ends up being silly, even in comparison to the rest of the film.
Another thing to praise about the film is the actors playing these unique characters. Dan Fogler is almost instantly worthy of our sympathy, and even though he isn’t a great actor, he fits his character well. The more experienced actors, including Christopher Walken and George Lopez also play their parts well, even if they don’t have as large of a role to play.
Actually, I think I know a way to get more enjoyment out of this film, assuming you choose to watch it. I’ve already setup a large portion of the plot, so start it at around the 45 minute mark. You might feel like you’ve missed something, but trust me, you won’t have. Watch from there, and if you get bored, just turn it off. I’m sure you can figure out, roughly anyway, how the film ends.
There’s only one scene in the film that I would call really good, and I can hardly even remember it just an hour after watching it. It involves a male courtesan coming into Randy’s room, and them, well, at least you’ll have something to laugh at if you choose to watch the film. Let’s just say that the game “Boggle” gets involved at some point. The awkwardness of that scene is something I expect from an indie comedy, and was the best part of the film for me. Still not memorable, but at least entertaining.
Apart from a few key moments, Balls of Fury was not very enjoyable. The quirky cast of characters is almost enough to pull the film through, but this doesn’t happen. The acting is fine, and while the plot is predictable, it’s at least watchable. Unfortunately, it just isn’t funny. Not frequently enough, anyway. It’s not a complete waste of time, but not worthy of it either. It’s a film that’s there, and it can elicit some laughs, but it just didn’t do it for me.