" She came at me in sections. More curves than a scenic railway. "
— Fred Astaire, The Bandwagon

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Almost Famous

Director Cameron Crowe extends his autobiographical homage to 70s rock —Risë Keller (DVD review...)

Patrick Fugit is Almost Famous

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Balls of Fury doesn’t ascend to the same level of rarified stupid comedy nirvana as Dodgeball, but it makes for a nice, stupid companion piece.

Rock of Ages

The unflappable Christopher Walken keeps his oddball work in high gear
The unflappable Christopher Walken keeps his oddball work in high gear

Back in 1988, Randy Daytona was a ping pong prodigy. Unfortunately, the extremely intense German champ, Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon, Le Divorce), dominated the young son of a Marine at the Seoul world championships.

Eternally embarrassed, and forever mocked for muttering “I’m going to Disneyland” in a post-defeat catatonic stupor, Randy’s fall was even more rapid than his rise.

Almost 20 years later, Randy (Dan Fogler, School for Scoundrels) now performs novelty ping pong tricks at a low-rent casino in Reno. He gets introduced to the uninvolved audience, busy chomping down their buffet grub, by a cockatoo.

My oh my. How the mighty have been brought back to Earth with such a resounding thud. At least he kinda looks like Jack Black. Kinda.

Little does the chubby Def Leppard aficionado and self-confirmed loser know that the FBI needs his assistance.

There’s a maniac out there by the name of Feng (the unflappable Christopher Walken, who keeps his oddball work in high gear with this year’s version of Hairspray). Feng is a ping pong fanatic and a gun-running madman.

The FBI needs Randy to get back in game shape and work his way up the ping pong circuit in order to be invited to Feng’s own tournament. By doing so, he could infiltrate Feng’s not-so-friendly confines and bust up his operations.

Oh. And Randy has two weeks to do it.

Comedy 201: The Stupid Discourse Continues

Come on now. There’s no getting around it. This movie is stupid, but in the same giddy, unapologetic vein as Nacho Libre. It’s riddled with clichés, but they’re all played for laughs. And while it’s not gloriously stupid, this movie knows it’s silly and on the cheap.

Director Robert Ben Garant and his co-writer, Thomas Lennon (yeah, Karl Wolfschtagg himself), specialize in goofy, cheesy fun, as their voluminous work on Reno 911! will attest. And, while they can be blamed for turkeys like Herbie Fully Loaded, Taxi and The Pacifier, they also aspired a little bit higher with Night at the Museum.

Sure, maybe Balls of Fury is better suited for home viewing on DVD later on down the road. But then again, it’s a delight to see the mega cute Maggie Q (Mission: Impossible III) kick major ping pong butt on the giant screen.

After a summer of over-the-top blockbusters and sequels that ranged from the terrific third Pirates of the Caribbean to the underwhelming Fantastic Four follow up, along with the continuing resurgence of sex comedies in Knocked Up and Superbad, Balls of Fury offers the simple delight of totally unassuming escapist entertainment.

Guns ‘n’ Balls

During the movie’s briskly paced 90 minutes, all manner of nutty activity takes place and the cast plays up the goofy antics with a contagious relish.

Yes, it’s pretty darn ludicrous that the biggest challenge Randy faces on the road to Feng’s tournament is the indomitable, legendary ping pong maestro called The Dragon (who just so happens to be a 10-year-old girl).

It’s silly when a tough-talking Chinatown hooligan, prior to Randy taking on The Dragon, so defiantly and victoriously waves a wad of singles in the air — the championship pot, maybe totaling eight dollars — as if it was a massive pot o’ gold.

And it’s beyond over the top when Diedrich Bader, one of Drew Carey’s affable buddies on The Drew Carey Show, heads up a gaggle of homosexual sex slaves imprisoned in Feng’s compound.

But ya know what? It’s actually pretty funny and it’s as totally unpretentious as a movie can possibly get.

Besides all that, how can one possibly argue with a movie in which (albeit during the end credits) Christopher Walken sings the Def Leppard anthem Pour Some Sugar on Me?