Twitter Plot Summary: An unpleasant Tae Kwon Do instructor has to cope with marital issues. He also hits a kid.
Director: Jody Hill
Key Cast: Danny McBride, Ben Best, Mary Jane Bostic, Collette Wolfe.
Five Point Summary:
1. Five minutes and already Danny McBride is thoroughly unlikeable.
2. “I punched a kid.”
3. Jody Hill: director and master of creep.
4. Party! Violence!
5. Obligatory third act showdown.
The Foot Fist Way (a literal translation into English of Tae Kwon Do) is from the same stable as the bigger budget Will Ferrell movies, a second tier film featuring actors from the extended Apatow family. Shot in documentary style (minus any talking heads moments), Danny McBride is Fred Simmons, a Tae Kwon Do instructor who has a vacuous wife and an unhealthy obsession with martial arts and his hero Chuck “The Truck” Wallace. There is almost nothing else to his existence beyond this, and if there is we’re never introduced to it. This for me is strike one against the story. Yes, this guy has an obsession with martial arts, but just the addition of a single scene to confirm that there is nothing else in his life would have helped and, you never know, may have actually helped stir up a bit of empathy for him.
McBride is very good at playing unpleasant characters, and this appears to be the film where he started down that road. He rules his dojo with an iron fist, teaching his young students a lesson by giving them a beating and dishing out bad advice to anyone who will listen. His constant monotone helps ground the character in some sort of reality, but is there really any possibility of someone like this being in a position of responsibility? Leaving a nine year old in charge, for example. There are probably laws about doing that. That gag in itself is actually quite funny, but it’s underplayed to the point of almost being worthless. You’ve written a funny joke there guys, embrace it!
Whilst knowing that director Jody Hill actually is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, all of the main characters portray the martial art in a really negative light. Simmons is a really nasty guy; Chuck “The Truck” Wallace is washed up and an equally nasty guy but from a different angle; and Jody Hill’s Mike McAlister has an impenetrable stare and an apparent penchant for inappropriate relations with children. Ironically it’s one of the minor characters who gets the best story arc, and that is Henry. He progresses from the bullied to master of his life in the space of four or five very brief scenes. For everybody else there is little development, even Simmons avoids any real character development by the story’s end.
The jokes are also hit and miss, so that adds to the feeling of inconsistency. A little bit more of Simmons or, indeed, some of his students, outside of the dojo would have helped matters. Failing that, a few more completely inappropriate jokes would have gone down a storm, such as when Simmons is interviewing prospective dojo members. Instead all of the comedy comes via the three script writers. A little less ego-stroking and a little more for the lesser characters to do would have upped the rating considerably. Something along the lines of how Dodgeball was put together would have been appropriate. As it is, the core concept and performances are solid but a few tweaks here and there would elevate it to Will Ferrell territory.
Favourite scene: The party in Chuck “The Truck” Wallace’s’ hotel suite and student Henry takes offence at the guitarist’s attitude.
Quote: “If you were in prison, you’d be raped because you exude feminine qualities.”
Silly Moment: Simmons teaching a young student a lesson by beating him up.