The Foot Fist Way

Posted: June 13, 2008

Directed by Jody Hill. With Danny R. McBride, Ben Best and Mary Jane Bostic. Distributed by Paramount Vantage. 1 hour, 25 mins. R (Violence [of sorts], sex, drugs, profanity, adult themes). Playing at: AMC Neshaminy.

You know the dinner-table scene in Talladega Nights? The one with Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell, of course), his beautiful wife, and bratty brood engaged in a noisy debate over how to say grace?

The Foot Fist Way - a movie heartily endorsed by Mr. Ferrell - is full of similarly sublime, knuckleheaded suburban American humor. A deadpan, dead-on comedy that popped out of nowhere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and has finally found its way to theaters (or a theater - what a crime!), Jody Hill's writing-and-directing debut revolves around one Fred Simmons, a tae kwon do instructor.

It's tempting to spell that tae kwon doh, because Danny R. McBride's performance as Fred Simmons, a devout practitioner of the martial arts whose lameness totally escapes him, has more than a little of Homer Simpson about him, too.

Shot on the cheap, in verite style, with a cast of newcomers and non-pros (including a bunch of real tae kwon do students), The Foot Fist Way is divided into five parts: "Self-control," "Courtesy," "Perseverance," "Integrity" and "An Indomitable Spirit." At every turn, however, McBride's character loses it.

When he discovers his bombshell wife, Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic), has been fooling around with her boss, Fred struggles to keep things together. He concentrates on teaching his class of acne-faced nerds, wide-eyed school kids, and senior citizens the finer points of the Korean fighting technique. And it's a struggle he doesn't win.

Filmmaker Hill shows up as a bleach-blond, Goth-boy tae kwon do master, and Ben Best has the role of Chuck "The Truck" Wallace, a Chuck Norris-like martial arts star whom Fred happens to worship - until he discovers his hero on the couch with, yes, the she-can't-help-herself Suzie.

There is much to learn in The Foot Fist Way. About breaking a stack of concrete slabs with your elbow, about bowing respectfully to your opponent before you knock him silly, and about how to craft a very cool comedy based on character - real, and really self-deluded characters - and not on shtick.

- Steven Rea

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