In the grand tradition of BEERFEST and BLADES OF GLORY, this insistently ludicrous and not entirely unfunny two-joke comedy satirizes an old Hollywood standby: the big-comeback sports movie. One joke is that the film purports to expose the seedy underbelly of that rec-room favorite, ping-pong. The other is that our hapless hero is forced to compete in a fight-to-the-death match of the kind usually found in a very different kind of film, the kind that generally stars Bruce Lee or Jean-Claude Van Damme.
1988, Seoul, Korea: Young U.S. table-tennis champion and Def Leppard fanatic Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) is about to face off against his most fearsome opponent, the German super-lobber Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon, who cowrote the script with director and Reno 911! cast mate Ben Garant), at the Summer Olympics. At the very last minute, Randy realizes that his coach/father Marine Sergeant Pete Daytona (Robert Patrick) has borrowed a small fortune from mysterious Chinese triad boss Feng (Christopher Walken) and bet it all on this single match. With the whole world watching, Randy cracks under the pressure, trips over backwards and smacks his head, regaining consciousness just long enough to deliver the victory line that would haunt him for the rest of his life: "I'm going to Disneyland!" His father is even less fortunate: Feng has him murdered. Nineteen years later the disgraced Randy is performing table-tennis tricks at the Peppermill Dinner Theater in Reno, Nevada, when he's approached by FBI agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez), who needs Randy's help in a top-secret mission. Agent Rodriguez is hot on the trail of Feng, who holds an annual high-stakes, invitation-only ping-pong tournament at a secret location. Rodriguez wants Randy to rejoin the table-tennis circuit and, with any luck, receive an invite to Feng's lair. But first he needs to bone up on his skills, so Rodriguez turns Randy over to blind table-tennis master Wong (James Hong), who, along with his ping-pong-whiz daughter Maggie (Maggie Q), runs the Happy Mu Shu Palace in Orange County, California. Wong's training regime won't be easy and the fact that he's training a "round-eyes" nearly causes a revolution in the Chinatown ping-pong underground but it could save Randy's life because Feng's battle is to the death.
Dan Fogler is probably less familiar to the target demographic for a silly, ball-whacking comedy about ping-pong than to New York City theater audiences, thanks to his Tony-winning turn in the The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Though he's a fine and sometimes funny performer, reminiscent of a less wired John Belushi or a kinder, softer Sam Kinison, the movie's first half belongs to veteran character actor Hong, who probably gets more screentime here than he's had in any other single movie over his wide and varied career. The second half is owned by Christopher Walken, the man behind the mysterious Feng. Looking for all the world like Martha Graham in Fu Manchu drag but still talking like the King of New York his bizarre turn elevates this harmless but otherwise forgettable comedy into a Walken cult curiosity. leave a comment --Ken Fox