Wanna make a successful movie? Take one mildly amusing sport, add a chubby but likeable hero and a healthy dose of surrealism. Voila, you've got your basic Hollywood sporting comedy. See also: Blades of Glory, Dodgeball, Talladega Nights and so on. In Balls of Fury the sport is ping-pong and the hero is Dan Fogler rather than Will Ferrell, but everything else feels pretty familiar. It's good natured enough, but laughs are thin on the ground.
Fogler is Randy Daytona, a former Olympic table tennis medallist lured back into the game by the FBI. They want him to play in a top secret Game of Death style tournament orchestrated by master criminal and ping pong afficionado Feng (Christopher Walken, clearly enjoying himself in a succession of bizarre geisha girl outfits). To train him up for the tourney, the bureau hires blind ping pong trainer Mister Wong (James Hong), who serves as the butt of endless "ho-ho-ho-he's-blind-and-he's-fallen-over" jokes. Maggie Q flashes her Bambi thighs as Wong's hot daughter, and has to play love interest to Fogler's corpulent furball, an experience one can only hope she was well paid for.
If we had to sum up Balls of Fury in a single word, it would be "meh". Writer/director Robert Ben Garant is stingy with his laughs, presumably aware that there are not enough to go around - even at a slim 90 minutes the material here feels stretched. The concept of an underground ping-pong network is pleasantly absurd, and the leads play every lame gag with gusto, but there's just not enough wit or imagination to justify a feature.
Balls Of Fury is out in the UK on 26th December 2007.