Balls of Fury was the recipient of much critical fury when it first hit theaters. Maybe that's because the title sounded like a ripoff of Blades of Glory, which came out earlier that year, or because Fury's Dan Fogler seemed like a transparent attempt at finding "a poor man's Jack Black." Whatever the reason, it was as though all the pent-up frustration about two-bit comedies and their enslavement to formula was unleashed on this one little ping-pong movie. Which contradicts one very central and very original thing about Balls of Fury -- it might just be the first ever mainstream comedy about ping-pong. And it's certainly the first film since Forrest Gump to digitally conjure such realistic feats of paddle prowess, which Fury does repeatedly, with contagious joy. That's a good way to describe the entire film -- its surprising warmth and sweetness can't help but feel contagious, once viewers look past their preconceived biases. Fogler is, actually, his own comic personality -- he bears a physical resemblance to Black, but his perfectly named Randy Daytona is Fogler's own Def Leppard-loving goofball creation. While Daytona is in fact a depressed schlub working the dingiest casinos in Reno, he's also a genuine ping-pong savant. A lesser script might have made him a hapless wannabe, but writer-director Ben Garant and writer Thomas Lennon respect Daytona's genius, finding the absurd in his situation, rather than requiring him to play the clown -- quite different from how they would have written his character on Reno 911! They've also dreamed up a funny array of ping-pong lifer nut jobs, whose tournament underworld is comic gold, especially as overseen by Christopher Walken in a kimono and a Brooklyn accent. The title tells you this movie has balls, but it can't prepare you for its unexpected heart.
by Derek Armstrong review