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Eye of the Tabby


he actor Danny R. McBride specializes in playing white-trash types, so it's not surprising to find him in his first starring role playing Fred Simmons, an out-of-shape suburban martial arts instructor who likes to pick on people smaller than himself. Fred, immature and petty to the extreme, is the owner of a dojo in a strip mall, and he's an interesting figure for a hero. The unspoken hilarity of his personality is that he's the opposite of what you'd want in such a person. Foul-mouthed in front of the littlest of his students, he's not above stepping on them to make himself feel better, either.ÿ

ÿ"Foot Fist Way" is a low-budget comedy, which also tends to help its story about a less-than-admirable guy trying to max out life in the suburbs. Fred's environs are part of the reason he's so humorously believable, though he overcompensates for the vinyl siding of his pedestrian split-level home with a cherry-red, late-model Ferrari and his wife's (Mary Jane Bostic) breast implants. He thinks of himself as hip when decked out in terrible Wal-Mart wear. (Full disclosure: McBride is from just such a place, Fredericksburg, where he was close friends with my little brother.)

Fred is a doofus in the vein of contemporary comedy characters, but he's not a Will Ferrell-type, over-the-top parody (even though Ferrell and his frequent collaborator Adam McKay signed on to help get the movie seen in theaters). He's more of a guy you might find managing your local Applebee's, or at least assistant-managing it.

"Foot Fist?VbCrLf pains Fred with marital troubles and gives him a vague goal in trying to partner with the nation's premier tae kwon do star (co-writer Ben Best) and engaging the help of a creepy martial arts buddy (co-writer and director Jody Hill). But the movie is more about funny people and their predicaments than a strong, central story.

If it were as focused as its title would indicate, we might have the makings of an invincible summer sleeper hit. But occasionally "Way?VbCrLf wanders, and Fred slips off balance from a shameless, infantile jerk into a hapless, and more pedestrian, goofball. Many laughs and cringe-inducing jabs at taste and decency give the proceedings kick, but "Way?VbCrLf may leave you like one of Fred's students - impressed but wondering if it really means anything. (R) 87 min.

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