The Foot Fist Way

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Opens: Friday, May 30 (Paramount Vantage)

Jody Hill's off-center comedy "The Foot Fist Way" has been knocking around for the past couple of years. It played at Sundance and then at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2006, when Paramount Vantage acquired it. Unlike a fine wine, the film has not improved with age, though perhaps the growing popularity of martial arts will give it a slightly larger audience than it would have had two years ago.

Vantage is hoping for "Napoleon Dynamite"-style cult audiences, but that seems unlikely.

Danny McBride plays tae kwon do instructor Fred Simmons, who flaunts his masculine powers, which are called into question when he learns that his wife (Mary Jane Bostic) has been fooling around with his chief rival (Ben Best).

The best thing about the movie is the characterization of Simmons, who's at once self-confident and clueless. His swaggering pronouncements to his pupils are wickedly funny, and McBride gives a deft performance that promises more choice comic turns in the future. (He's in the cast of Judd Apatow's production of "Pineapple Express," coming later in the summer.) Scenes with Simmons' pint-sized students are among the movie's highlights. Bostic also has fun with her character's unapologetically trashy side.

Yet the witty touches are simply too scarce to sustain a feature, even one that runs less than 90 minutes. The bright scenes are overwhelmed by too many others that fall flat. "Foot Fist" was made on a low budget in Hill's home state of North Carolina, but it doesn't take much advantage of the locations. Some clever song selections add welcome energy to the uneven production.

Cast: Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic, Ben Best, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez IV, Jody Hill, Collette Wolfe.Director: Jody Hill. Screenwriters: Jody Hill, Danny McBride, Ben Best. Producers: Jody Hill, Erin Gates, Robert Hill, Jennifer Chikes.
Rated R, 82 minutes.


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