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    Balls Out (2015): Movie Review

    “An unconventional spoof of sports-movie conventions.”

    What is our typical sports movie like? Underdogs dreaming for the blaze of glory, then some obligatory trainings, trials along the way, then the big game with the big plans, and then some last-minute save to win the game. With Balls Out, director Andrew Disney takes these elements to a hilarious high.

    The film begins with the freshmen Panthers in a neck-to-neck soccer game against the Titans in an intramurals. Lead by Dick Downs (Beck Bennett), the Titans seem to beat the Panthers down. However, Caleb Fuller (Jake Lacy) pulls a last-minute win for the team. This comes with a price though – Grant (Nick Kocher), overran by Downs, becomes paralyzed from his “balls” down. Distraught over their sad victory, the team disbands, vowing never to play intramural football forever.

    Moving four years forward, Caleb is now a fifth year college senior, preparing for his upcoming law school admission test and unexpected marriage to his insufferable fiancée Vicky (Kate McKinnon). After a chance encounter with his old fellow from the Panthers, Caleb seeks a final thrill and taste of glory. Tracking down his colleagues, he reunites the Panthers and once again back on the field to play balls.

    But this does not come easy as the Titans also come together to settle a score against them. In the process, Caleb falls for the new girl Meredith (Nikki Reed) who happens to come from the same uterus as Dick Downs. Balancing between studies and sports, between a new girl and a nightmare, and between the hardball commentaries of duo Bill (D.C. Pierson) and Dan (Jay Pharoah), Caleb must overcome his past guilt and bring the bacon home again for the team. 

    Balls Out is a well-constructed slapstick comedy, acknowledging and at the same time making fun of worn-out sports drama conventions and spoofing popular movies in the genre. Aside from the loser-to-winner workouts and blood-pumping inspirational soundtracks and musical score, the film excels in putting an outrageously comical twist on traditional pre-game speeches. While Dick Downs yells profanities to boost the morale of his team, Caleb goes sweet and romantic with the Panthers, even giving an amusing moment of silence for their supposedly dead coach. Other notable parodies in the movie are Caleb’s unfathomable Rocky-style drawl and the closing credits showing the destinies of the characters.

    Bradley Jackson’s vulgar and witty scripts, as well as Andrew Disney’s playful and sharp direction, created a clear narrative in the film, with a bit of a heart and soul. Sexual humor is common in Balls Out, the title not an exception, yet the absence of nudity and sex scene indicates the film’s non-exploitation of sex to bring great laughs. The movie has plenty of incredible dialogues worth quoting. Grant’s “This isn’t about winning. It’s about winning at the last possible second,” Downs’ “I’m going to rip out your colon and wear it like a spooky eyepatch,” and Vicky’s “You’re not a man, you’re a bacterium” are solid one-liners.

    The movie’s success is largely due to the winning devotion of the cast. McKinnon is ironically lovable as the overbearing and bitchy girlfriend. Her bubbly presence is overpowering and exciting. Lacy pulls off Caleb effortlessly. His low-key charm and sweet presence defines the perfect selfless protagonist, typical of sports movie. Lacy also has graceful comic timing, making him a funny man with an adoring face. All other actors are also enjoyable and engaging, especially Bennett as the narcissist, racist, sexist, and homophobic Dick Downs.

    Though its jokes wear a little thin at some points, Balls Out is a satisfying and hilarious homage to sports movie. Its appealing cast, well-written script and clever direction are makings of a movie destined to be a cult classic.


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