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Danny McBride’s low-budget sleeper “The Foot-Fist Way” offers a roundhouse kick to the funny bone.


The Foot Fist Way

Directed by: Jody Hill
Starring: Danny McBride, Ben Best, Mary Jane Bostic
Playing: Lagoon Cinema

just because Will Ferrell says something is great doesn’t mean it’s great. Ferrell’s had his handful of cheesy money-making movies like “Elf,” and “A Night at the Roxbury,” movies that make you wonder what his interests are – money or legitimately good films? It seems Ferrell is being sincere this time, because “The Foot Fist Way,” the new goofball, small-town-USA-is-so-backwards release is good enough to be a comedic hit of 2008. Lucky for the integrity of Ferrell’s heavy promotion.

Ten years from now, movie critics will be talking about the ’00s as the decade when awkward dry comedy reigned supreme. “Napoleon Dynamite” will be called the film that started it all with long, drawn-out jokes that make you cringe as you laugh. “The Foot Fist Way” follows very much in the same style.

Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) is a paunchy, mustachioed Tae Kwon Do instructor going through a mid-life crisis after his wife (Mary Jane Bostic) gives her new boss a hand job at an office party.

Simmons reacts like any sane Tae Kwon Do instructor would by taking out his pent-up anger on 8-year-old students and releasing his inner sexual frustration on a homely college-aged blonde who’s taking his Tae Kwon Do classes to get firmer abs.

Everything about Simmons is a joke. His ignorant, overly confident attitude is established from the very beginning, when he and a couple of his students are offering a demo in a mall parking lot. Before going out to perform, he psyches himself up by asking his two students, “Who’s the king of the Demo?”

“You are,” the students respond.”

“You’re G–damned right I am,” says Simmons. You’ve seen this character before. The protagonist is arrogant and overly confident, but at the slightest sign of something going awry, he cries like a baby or punches something, showing audiences a weak spot in the supposed stonewall façade. Think of Ferrell’s characters Ron Burgundy or Ricky Bobby; their over-the-top antics create suspense as the audience waits for their inevitable hilarious blow-up and the resulting downfall.

“The Foot Fist Way” is more than a comedy about kicking people in the face. It’s also a love story, and beyond that, it’s a classic tale of good defeating evil. The formal tenants of Tae Kwon Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit seem to be the antithesis of everything Simmons does throughout the film. Before seeing it, you pretty much know what is going to happen.

The dead-pan awkward comedy is beginning to become played out, but “The Foot Fist Way” redeems itself by allowing the funniest parts to shine through without glaring obviousness. It’s the regular stuff that gets some of the best laughs, like when they are on a trip to a martial arts expo and Simmons says to a couple of his students, “I told you you should have peed before we left. Now by the time we get there all the good throwing stars will be gone.”

Music is seemingly nonexistent in the film, making the audience feel like they are part of the tension. There are many awkward scenes where you wish you could get up and tell Simmons to stop being an idiot.

It’s the classic, football-in-the-nuts kind of comedy that will make you cringe and laugh as elderly and frail women get beaten and young kids get picked on. They start as gags, but if you layer a good story and plot around them, you can’t deny that “The Foot Fist Way” is enjoyable. Formulaic, but it works.

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