High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Fury Fur: Balls of Fury, Reviewed

So this week, M and I are celebrating the 11th anniversary of our meeting. And I do mean "this week." Monday we hit Fried Chicken Mondays at West Town Tavern (our umami dinner was canceled and has been rescheduled for October), then we had the Magic Cabaret on Tuesday. Thursday was actually "the day," and in honor of our B-Movie-themed origins we went to see a movie rife with B-movie promise.
And, of course, a chewy cowbell center.

We were prepared to be pretty content if it turned out that all the good bits had been revealed in the trailer. It was, after all, a really good trailer. As is frequently the case with such low expectations, they were exceeded.

As parody movies go, I'd place Balls of Fury (which the marquee and the ticket kiosk unfortunately abbreviated to Balls of Fur, to our 12-year-old amusement) much nearer the funnier-than-it-has-any-right-to-be Hot Shots than the so-appallingly-bad-there-is-no-excuse-for-the-continued-metabolism-of-anyone-connected-with-it Epic Movie. Much of the reason for that is attributable to the writers, director, and actors having some concept of how much is too much.

There are schticky sight gags, yes, but they're not every 90 seconds. There are absurd interruptions of Big Dramatic Moments, but there are also Big Dramatic Moments that are allowed to be absurd in and of themselves because everyone is taking them seriously. There's precious little gratuitous filth or gross-out humor (not that I have any objection to either, per se, but when 90 minutes of them is more than a bit much). And it even manages to be mildly daring in turning some of the tropes of the genre (both the "regular guy goes undercover on a deadly important mission" genre itself and parody as a genre) on their head. For example, the "pleasure courtesans" are all male doofuses, headed by the King Doofus Diedrich Bader, and he and the main character drink beer and play Boggle all night. But the most important element may be that it's a funny movie with an actual plot and it moves pretty briskly from point A to B and so on.

The cast is, without exception, just right. I'm not even going to say anything about Walken. He's like a plate of hash brownies all on his own for giving the giggles. The wardrobe is hysterical, most of his dialogue is hysterical, and thus, he is pretty hysterical. As the ZK put it, there is a little too much dependence on his being inherently funny, but you can ride that pony a long way.

Maggie Q and George Lopez, both without a lot to work with, hit all the right notes as the love interest and the FBI agent who gets the main character into the mess, respectively. Thomas Lennon is almost unrecognizable as the German mega-opponent, and every time I think about him—especially when I also think about him being Dangle from Reno 911—I laugh and laugh and laugh. Also pegging the hilarity meter is the retroactive knowledge that the guy who gets chopsticks up his nose is, in fact, Jason Scott Lee (that would be funny to you, too, if I could find a picture of the character on linem, and it's funnier still if you lived through the live-action Jungle Book and Rapa Nui on a bus ride in Peru, but I suspect you're going to have to trust me on that).

James Hong can do no wrong whatsoever (seriously, are you going to fuck with Lo Pan? Didn't think so.), but I do wish that less of the burden of stereotype and the comparatively (within the confines of the genre) minor amounts of homophobia weren't directed his way. And Patton Oswalt? Good lord, did he make me laugh and laugh with about 12 words of dialogue. I just wish there'd been more of him. Although if there had been, I might have hurt myself internally.

But the best for last: Dan Folger where have you been all my life? What a great, low-key actor. Funny as hell without any of the spastic, smarmy, asshole mugging of so many of the "big" comic actors. And damn if he didn't pull off the genuine, suave, heart pitter-pattering Bond-like hero moments when he's being "such a dick" to keep Maggie from sacrificing herself for him.

And all this silly goodness is topped with Def Leppard and loving 80s homage. It's all very, very stupid, and I was laughing like Muttley for no good reason all the way through the credits.

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