Today I got a new pair of underwear, and they have “Balls of Fury” emblazoned on the front. I can’t tell you how long I have been waiting to get underwear as swag – if I could just get a pair of socks I would have a whole outfit (Jackass Converse are on their way to me now, apparently).
I got that underwear as part of a little sneak peek at Balls of Fury, Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant’s ping pong movie. The duo were there, as was their star, Dan Fogler. Beers were served, finger food was eaten, the three of them mingled for a little while and then we were shown ten minutes from the film, which opens in January.
The ten minutes comprised two scenes: the first was in Reno, where Randy Daytona, one-time ping pong wunderkind and celebrity, has been reduced to doing tricks in front of a lunch time crowd at a seedy casino. Fogler seems fantastic as Randy Daytona – the easiest way to describe the character is that he’s a Jack Black type, but completely beaten down by life. Daytona is fat, has long frizzy hair, tends to dress in far-too-tight clothes and loves 80s hair metal. He could be the great comic creation of 2007.
The second scene is in China; Randy has been recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a Triad gang whose leader, played by Christopher Walken in an unbelievably garish succession of outfits, holds a Mortal Kombat-style ping pong tournament. The first scene, which had David Koechner singing with a parrot and wearing an incredible wig, was funny. The second scene was hilarious. It was Randy’s first match in the tournament, where he’s up against Terry Crews (giving this film a weird connection to David Lynch’s Inland Empire). Before showing the clips, Thomas Lennon had described the movie as a Jean Claude Van Damme movie with ping pong instead of fighting (and no Jean Claude), and this scene really exemplified that. They understand that the beauty of a good silly sports movie is that the sports have to be played straight and yet cheesy, and Balls of Fury does that.
This is the second time I have seen footage from the film – Lennon and Garant showed some stuff at Comic Con at a panel which surprised everyone as being one of the best of the whole weekend. Before Comic Con I wasn’t that sold on the film (the premise sounded like the whole joke), but the clips warmed me up – today’s presentation won me over completely. From what I’ve seen, Balls of Fury looks funnier than Dodgeball and less surreal than Talladega Nights.
The Comic Con panel ended with Garant and Lennon chasing a planted troublemaker around the presentation hall; I asked Garant if that footage would make it on to the Balls of Fury DVD. He said it was a great idea and they were looking into it, but the footage from their Reno 911! panel – at which they appeared in costume – would definitely be on the DVD for the Reno 911!: Miami DVD. The Reno movie hits just a month after Balls, by the way, and the casts have huge amounts of overlap.
Balls of Fury is going to end up being PG-13 – a soft PG-13, Lennon says – and is going to be potentially seen as a family film. The ten minutes we saw today could have contained raunchy jokes if they had decided to go that way, but I still found myself laughing throughout all the clips. And the soft PG-13 isn’t stopping Walken from delivering one of his most disturbing performances as the mincingly gay Triad chief.
Talking to Dan Fogler after the clips I found that he was hoping Todd McFarland would want to do Balls of Fury toys. Fogler already has something to be excited about, though – he told me that RockStar was making a version of their Table Tennis game with the faces of Balls of Fury characters mapped in. He’s also gearing up for his new play, Voyage of the Carcass. It’s apparently funnier than it sounds – it’s about a theater company mounting a production of an over the top play about a doomed Polar expedition. It opens next week; you can get tickets here.
January seems like a good time for Balls of Fury – the Oscar stampede of very serious films will be over, and it’ll be nice to just laugh at a dumb sports movie. If the comedy holds up beyond the ten minutes I saw today (Garant promised it does. “The rest of the movie is just like that, but longer,” he said), Balls of Fury could be a real… I don’t know what the ping pong equivalent of a slam dunk or home run is. It could be a real good serve?