‘Balls of Fury’ loses its bounce

The subject of sports spoofs has been done to death, but apparently Hollywood hasn’t gotten the message yet. This time, “Balls of Fury” attempts to lampoon the world of competitive pingpong, but it fails miserably.

Unlike previous sport spoof films, this one is not a star vehicle. The main character is played by Dan Fogler (“School for Scoundrels,” “Good Luck Chuck”), and, although he shows great comedic potential, this film is not going to be his breakout role. Instead, this predictable plot only serves to make him look like a last-minute cheap replacement for Jack Black (“The School of Rock,” “Nacho Libre”).

Indeed, the entire film is full of recognizable – but not well-known – comedic second-rate actors like Patton Oswalt (“The King of Queens,” “Reno 911!”), David Koechner (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,”) and Diedrich Bader (“The Drew Carey Show,” “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous”).

There are also bit-part actors that will be recognized from the background of many comedic movies, but with more lines here than they’ve ever had before. Then there are the strange scenes that crop up in the middle of nowhere just to give a line or two to such newcomers to success as Masi Oka (“Heroes,” “The Proud Family Movie”) and David Proval (“Smokin’ Aces,” “Hollywood Dreams”).

It’s a wonder that Christopher Walken (“Hairspray,” “Wedding Crashers”) and George Lopez (“George Lopez,” “Tortilla Heaven”) were convinced to be in this film at all, especially when they’re given such cheesy roles to play. Perhaps it looked funny from the outset, but if the idea of dressing up Walken like an old Chinese film villain is the best bit of comedy the director had in mind for his character, then he fell far short of the goal.

And that is really the sad thing about this film: It had such great potential, but it simply fell flat, mainly because the script relies too heavily on clich?d characters and plotlines.

A sports icon faces defeat early in his career and is haunted by it years later. The entire rest of the film is all about his “comeback,” plus winning the girl and defeating the crime lord who killed his father (Robert Patrick, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Bridge to Terabithia”). Throw in a little ode to Def Leppard and you’ve got the whole movie in a nutshell.

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Yet the script isn’t all recycled material. There were a few tiny moments of fresh comedy in the mix that do get laughs out of the audience. For instance, the scene where the main character visits his father’s grave only to discover that the air rights of the graveyard have been sold to an amusement park is quite funny because it has never been done before.

If only someone could have told the writer this and let those moments take over the script, then the film might have become the next “Dodgeball.” Instead, it will join the ranks of rentals that will soon die in obscurity.

Of course, it didn’t help that, thanks to the overkill on advertising, all of the best funny bits and the majority of the storyline have been seen in the previews. And really, that’s all that anyone needs to see of this movie.