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Martial Lawlessness 

The Foot Fist Way Is A Comedy Of Napoleon Dynamite Proportions

MTV Films and Paramount seemed to have been hoping Napoleon Dynamite lightning could strike twice, with the release of this similarly regionally flavored, low-budget, not-for-all-tastes, no-name comedy - no name, that is, unless you count sports-spoof regular Will Ferrell as one of the producers. The Foot Fist Way tackles martial-arts as it is observed at innumerable tacky strip-mall dojos across this land, and if the results aren't "flippin' sweet!", the flashes of recognition and empathy can still put the beat-down on that overinflated Karate Kid sequel in which Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi went to Japan. An apt alternate title would be Bad Sensei.

With a legend-in-his-own-mind ego, f-word vocabulary and mustache - picture your least-favorite high-school gym coach - Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) is a chunky bubba running a tae-kwon-do academy franchise in a southern suburb, promising students from kindergartners up to seniors the self-confidence and Enlightment that mastery of the martial arts supposedly confers. But the dude is a, what is the Shaolin Temple expression? Ah yes, a douchebag. The wounded protag fatefully attempts to get his game back by persuading his personal kung-fu idol, champion sparrer and movie action-hero Chuck "The Truck" Wallace, to visit the school.

You wouldn't want to spend any time in a room with a character like Fred, even if the floors were covered by rubber mats (it makes all the difference that the unknown McBride took the unsavory lead, instead of a recognizable audience-pleasing comedian like Ferrell). Still, as the jerk absorbs one body-blow after another from life, you feel for him and the way that, in spite of himself, he comes through as a mentor-figure to his disciples in the end. Director/co-writer Jody Hill has a funny supporting part as a fifth-degree black belt poseur who dresses and acts like he's ready for combat in The Matrix. Parents of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans should know The Foot Fist Way really earns its R-belt from the MPAA for language, drugs and vulgarity.

film@clevescene.com

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More by Charles Cassady Jr.

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