You don’t go into a Balls of Fury looking for something the Academy Awards may have accidently overlooked. You go to have a good time. You go to laugh at the stupid. Save the talk of lowbrow humor, you cultural elitists. We want sight gags. We want the ridiculous. We want something at least approaching wit. We want a movie we can watch on a guy’s night out.

Balls of Fury had none of these things.

I really wanted to like this movie, but it movie was stunningly laughless. The short version of this review goes like this: at best, you saw the best jokes in the trailer, and the other hour and twenty five minutes are filler. Yes, yes, I know most folks took one look at the trailer and thought “that looks stupid” and passed, but every now and then, we hold out for the possibility of witnessing the next Police Academy or Caddyshack.

“Remember, you suck when you’re nervous.” -Master Wong

Balls of Fury was obviously nervous, however, much about the movie sounds funny as a concept. Dan Fogler plays Randy Daytona, former ping pong child prodigy, who after a spectacular collapse in the 1988 Olympics is reduced to ping pong parlor tricks. He is recruited by the FBI (in the person of George Lopez who seems determined to follow what I’m calling the Bobcat Goldthwait movie career track) to enter the shadowy world of underground ping pong.

Since Daytona has lost his mojo, he is taken to Master Wong (James Hong) a blind instructor (excuse my nerd moment: think the mentor known as Stick to the super-hero Daredevil). After defeating a name opponent, he is finally invited to the big tournament hosted by evil mastermind, Feng, Christopher Walken dressed like a cross between Ming the Merciless and a drunken geisha wardrobed by Elton John. Christopher Walken deserves a better (read: funny) vehicle or at least given a random dance scene. His caricature of his own acting ticks and cadence amounts to about the only engaging thing about the movie, but that might simply be because he brings his own sense of cool to any role. However, that’s not enough to save this film.

“Believe in yourself when no one else does.” -Master Wong

Since I’m forced to have to think through this dreck, the best spiritual connection I can come up with is the idea that Randy Daytona failed to live up to his destiny, his calling, and whether he realized it or not, was in need of redemption. He, like all of us, had been gifted but he squandered his talents and was left filled with self-doubt. This sense of lost-ness or incompleteness hints of there being some greater story and purpose about life that we might be missing.

Our journey begins by appreciating who we are and our own gifts. As Eikons of God, created in His image to relate to Him and to others, we were created for a purpose. So Daytona turns to a Master-Teacher to learn how to use and hone his gifts so that he might be a blessing to the world rather than use them for his own meager self-interests.

“It would be an honor for me to give you my life.” –Maggie (Maggie Q)

We can’t escape the power of learning in community. We’ve lost the idea of journeying with our teachers, that teaching and knowing have a relational component. The master-student relationship is an important one when it comes to the idea of “making disciples”. In a lot of ways, people have gotten away from what the picture of making a disciple looked like. It called for a teacher to walk alongside their disciples, live life with them. The master/teacher embodies, incarnates if you will, the teachings and faith is lived out in the context of a community.

The goal of the student is to become as much like the teacher as possible; it’s how disciples are made. Discipleship would involve a changed in three areas: belief (as we turn to our Master-Teacher), behavior (as our lives become slowly transformed, centering our lives around living out what we’ve learned; putting action to our faith and knowledge), and belonging (we join a specific community of learning).

Written by Reno 911‘s Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant (with Garant doubling with director duties) the film mixes up kung-fu movies, those inspirational “you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all” sports dramas, and ‘80s nostalgia, thus having plenty of targets to take aim at. Yet the movie doesn’t seem to rise above crotch shots, blind jokes, and an “Asians are funny” level of humor. The overall idea was funny, but the movie was poorly executed. This is the sum of every bad movie I stayed up late watching on Cinemax as a teenager. Balls of Fury is a broad, over-the-top brand of comedy that still manages to miss its mark. I’m only sorry I couldn’t warn you sooner.

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