If movies were people and humor (aka the “funny”) was money, then Balls of Fury would be a tightwad pizza delivery guy; he’s got a few hundred dollars carefully stashed in his hooker jar but gives exactly 11.5% tips at TGI Fridays. The fact that he’s a pizza delivery guy is completely irrelevant except for the fact that I like pizza. And hookers.
Speaking of hookers, a key ingredient to successful comedies such as Talladega Nights and Knocked Up -- other than the fact that they’ve got genuinely funny material – is that jokes get tossed around with a casual confidence that anticipates a continual flow of punch lines and sets a positive tone for the entire film.
And the dearth of laughs is the real crux of the issue. Writing/acting/pretend gay/directing duo Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant have taken the ginger stepchild of ESPN sports -- ping pong -- and modeled it after similarly wacky sport comedies such as Talladega Nights, Dodgeball, and Blades of Glory, but rarely venture beyond the most obvious shticks. The handicapped coach, the hot chick girlfriend, and the creepy bad guy are new comedy staples and there’s very little to distinguish the versions found in Balls of Fury, with the exception of the blind coach’s (Jame's Hong's) consistently amusing performance.
Lennon and Garant also forgot to make it possible to relate to anyone in Balls of Fury, unless of course you’re an ex child ping pong prodigy whose father was killed by the Chinese Mafia for failing to pony up on a bet lost on your crushing Olympic defeat to a militant German champion. Actually, that would be pretty cool.
I realize I’m criticizing a flick that flaunts male bosom jiggling for not having relatable characters, but I think it’s a legitimate complaint. Jokes fall flat if you don’t care about or understand the people involved, which is why Will Ferrell is so damn good in Talladega Nights and just about any other movie he’s in. The guy can play ten kinds of imbecile but you never doubt that his heart is in the right place and that makes us care when his wife leaves him or laugh when he tears his nut sack. Balls of Fury’s Dan Fogler seems likable enough and demonstrates a knack for physical slapstick, but there’s just not enough material for him to get beyond a fat, slobby caricature.
If you’ve seen the previews, you’ve already seen the best parts of Balls of Fire. My advice is to be a tightwad and save your money for pizza.