The Foot Fist Way

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.

Eastbound & Down

Ever since seeing Danny McBride in Andy Samberg’s Hot Rod, I’ve been a fan of his bombastic assholitude. Since then he’s gone on to memorable roles in Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, and starring in The Foot Fist Way, as a small town Tae Kwon Do instructor. I dunno why I never gt around to reviewing that one- I’m buying the DVD and will rectify that soon. It’s as hilarious as this show, which plays Monday nights on HBO.
In Eastbound & Down, McBride plays Kenny Powers, a has-been baseball player who used to be a pitcher with a killer fastball in the ’80s. He still packs the mullet, the ego, and the attitude, but now has a beer gut and debts to pay instead of a magic arm and the world on a platter. He’s living with his brother’s family, working as a substitute Phys-Ed teacher at a local school, and drives around listening to his own audiobooks in a monster truck towing his Jet Ski. The show rides on this character he has created- someone so full of himself and obviously past whatever prime he had, and unable to let it go, that every moment of his life is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel. There is not a likeable atom in his body, so unless you can laugh at someone like that, this isn’t for you.

He’s backed up by some relative newcomers who will be big soon. Katy Mixon (photo gallery), a busty brunette best known for Four Christmases, shows her comedic chops as the old flame Kenny holds a torch for; her husband, the school principal (Upright Citizens Brigade alumn Andrew Daly) is the perfect nerdy fan, but is still driven to apoplexy by Kenny’s shenanigans. At home, Kenny’s brother Dustin (John Hawkes, Me and You and Everyone We Know) and his wife Cassie (Jennifer Irwin) have their Christian hospitality put to the test, and the kids swerve from being terrified of their bellowing beast of an uncle. But he also charms them, because at heart he’s just a kid who never grew up. But that kid is more like Eric Cartman from South Park than anything else.
McBride’s Will Ferrell has an episode-long cameo as the sleazy owner of a car dealership, and who knows who’ll show up next. His buddy and co-writer of the show Ben Best plays an old cokehead friend with aplomb. McBride was in Tropic Thunder, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Ben Stiller dropped in sometime. Let’s hope this has stronger legs than HBO’s last 30 minute comedy, Louie C.K.’s Lucky Louie, which despite being hilarious, disappeared off the radar one season in. HBO has a bad track record with any show that’s not a blockbuster, but this is the most I’ve laughed at a TV show in a long, long time.

Observe and Report redband trailer

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is the surprise family hit of the winter. Now Seth Rogen gives us the adult version, about a Mall Ninja dealing with a flasher terrorizing customers. When “head of security” Seth can’t handle it, Police detective Ray Liotta is called in. It looks like a sick take on Scorsese’s best efforts of the ’70s, and dark as hell. Written and directed by Jody Hill, who also did the underrated The Foot Fist Way with Danny McBride (who appears here as well) and HBO’s new series “Eastbound and Down,” this looks like an awesome film out of nowhere. April 10th, I’ll be there.