There are comedy pitches so insane that they go past 'crazy,' around the sphere of possibility to 'brilliant' and back again. Watching the trailer for Balls of Fury -- a comedy backed by many of the minds behind Comedy Central's Reno 911! -- I felt something like awe at the audacity of the pitch: They're making a ping pong comedy ... with the same plot as Enter the Dragon? For those of you not in the know, Enter the Dragon was the final film Bruce Lee completed before his untimely death in 1973; the plot involved a group of martial artists being asked to take part in a tournament at the secret island fortress of a shadowy criminal mastermind. Some come to the tournament for riches; some come for the juice; but one man (Lee) comes to infiltrate the island on behalf of an intelligence service -- and avenge the death of a loved one at the hands of the criminal mastermind. ...

And that's the plot of Balls of Fury -- only with ping pong in the place of martial arts, the husky-yet-funny Dan Fogler in the place of Bruce Lee, Christopher Walken in the role of the criminal mastermind. Co-writers Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant have thrown some broad comedy stuff into Balls of Fury's mix -- mining laughs from portly people falling down or people taking ping pong balls to the head or sudden reversals of fortune. But they also have some very specific stuff that mocks Enter the Dragon -- everything from sound effects to set design to a weird-but-brilliant riff on one of Enter the Dragon's creepier moments, where the criminal mastermind host offers his guests sex slaves for the evenings of their stay. ...

And yes, it's hard to make a sex slave joke work, but Lennon and Garant manage to pull it off. Fogler (playing ex-Olympian ping pong player Randy Dakota) -- who manages to play grandiose swagger and a sweet sense of insecurity in the part -- is a big part of Balls of Fury's success; he's like a kinder, gentler version of early Jack Black, less manic and more sympathetic. He's also surrounded by a supporting cast who work with the film, and who all seem to be on-board with the film's overall arc. George Lopez plays the FBI agent who recruits Randy with something like restraint; James Hong (best remembered as the insanely over-the-top David Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China) plays the ping pong mentor who gets Randy back in the game; Maggie Q plays Hong's daughter and Randy's sparring partner.

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categories Reviews, Cinematical