I didn’t appreciate this movie as much the first time. But second time around, it was even funnier. If you’ve dealt with dojo rats this will be especially funny, but fans of Danny McBride’s asshole humor in “East Bound & Down” will find a lot to like here; this is where Kenny Powers developed, and there’s a lot of the same cast & crew. It’s just as wincingly funny as the TV series.
The story centers on Fred Simmons, a small town Tae Kwon Do instructor with a big mouth and a big attitude, in a small pond. His class mostly consists of kids dumped there by their parents, a few awkward teenagers and guys with something to prove; he spends most of his time doing “demos,” breaking boards in parking lots to lure in more students. He’s followed by a small cadre of students, his inner circle, and doesn’t have any friends. At home he spars verbally with Suzie, his bleach-blonde trophy wife and drives around in his ’80s Ferrari Dino (the short-lived ‘intro’ model).
Much of the movie follows Fred through life, with his aggressive in-your-face persona. For anyone familiar with karate culture, he’s the perfect exaggeration of every character fault the big shot martial arts teacher has. Hell, even if you’ve seen The Karate Kid, it’s enough to make him hilarious. He tells a prospective woman student, “Meditation is terrific and all, but I’ve never heard of it saving anyone from a gang rape type situation. Why don’t you meditate on that.”
Everything changes when he catches his wife messing around at work; he falls into a funk, but then he sees his idol, Chuck “the Truck” Wallace, is attending a martial arts expo, and he drives to see him. Chuck- a thinly veiled Chuck Norris spoof- is played by Ben Best, who is also in “East Bound & Down.” Best is easily recognized as the guy in Superbad who tells Jonah Hill that he’s got period blood on his pants, and he’s great here. When Chuck the Truck offers to appear at Fred’s school, the collision of his party-animal hero, Suzie’s cheating, and Fred’s own persona is something to behold. Jody Hill himself manages a small, very funny part as Fred’s only friend.
It’s a short movie, but it’s as long as it needs to be, and the laughs are pretty steady throughout. Just remember that life is a comedy to those who think, and a tragedy to those who feel. And try not to feel! If you’ve only seen Danny McBride in Hot Rod or as Kenny Powers, you’ll think he’s a one trick pony. However in All the Real Girls by David Gordon Green, he’s about the only empathic guy in the movie. And in last summer’s Tropic Thunder (full review) he managed to be funny without dipping into the well again. He’s a guy to watch, and since he’s now butt-buddies with Will Ferrell, he’s in the Land of the Lost movie- which seems amusing from its trailer- so we may be seeing a lot more Danny McBride.