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The Foot Fist Way DVD Review

The Foot Fist Way movie poster The Foot Fist Way

Theatrical Release: May 30, 2008 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jody Hill / Writers: Jody Hill, Danny McBride, Ben Best

Cast: Danny McBride (Fred Simmons), Mary Jane Bostic (Suzie Simmons), Ben Best (Chuck "The Truck" Wallace), Spencer Moreno (Julio Chavez), Carlos Lopez IV (Henry Harrison), Jody Hill (Mike McAllister), Ken Aguilar (Rick), Collette Wolfe (Denise)

Buy The Foot Fist Way on DVD from Amazon.com

I first heard of The Foot Fist Way on DVD audio commentaries. In them, speakers would explain how they discovered the fresh, ripe talent of actor Danny McBride and subsequently cast him in their film.
A tiny independent comedy made on an apparently shoestring budget, Foot Fist was shown at Sundance and the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2006. It impressed enough in the industry to land McBride supporting roles in a number of high profile studio films, including Ben Stiller's The Heartbreak Kid and Tropic Thunder and the Judd Apatow-produced Drillbit Taylor and Pineapple Express.

Despite the career boost afforded its leading man, Foot Fist Way went unseen by the general public. In 2007, shortly before launching their popular Funny or Die website, Will Ferrell and his Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers director Adam McKay convinced indie branch Paramount Vantage to acquire the film. Paramount took its time to release the offbeat picture, finally debuting it this past Memorial Day. Though Ferrell, McKay, and Paramount all must have hoped this story would end with a mass multiplication gross like Napoleon Dynamite, that didn't exactly happen.

Foot Fist expanded from its initial 4-theater bow but it never got any higher than 25. You can easily estimate the number of people who attended the film in its final two weeks of playing in 2-3 venues based on meager daily grosses like $45, $38, and $10. The final domestic tally was $234,286, a sum that ranks it beneath over 200 other films released this year. Still, that was over three times the film's cost, a mere $70,000 put on maxed-out credit cards.

Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) gets some encouragement from three of his favorite students before proving himself "King of the Demo." Fred isn't above pounding lessons into the pupils of Concord Tae Kwon Do.

Forgive me for the long, mathematical intro, but I began there to illustrate how little one theatrically-released film could be made for today. Those numbers should act more as an inspiration to hopeful filmmakers than a warning to would-be viewers. For instance, Mike Myers' The Love Guru (released by Paramount's mainstream division) cost a reported $62 million to produce and plenty to market. And yet, I counted zero laughs in it. Adam Sandler's unusually weak You Don't Mess with the Zohan, made by Sony for an estimated $90 M, didn't fare much better in the humor department. By comparison, Foot Fist Way gets considerably more bang for its buck.

The Foot Fist Way centers on Fred Simmons (McBride), a flabby tae kwon do black belt who instructs primarily children out of his little North Carolina studio. Though neither he nor the parents of his students have noticed, Fred is a mess. He is void of social graces, undiscerning in how he addresses kids, and unable to rationalize his illogical faith in a martial art he teaches with half-assed clichιs. In the real world, he'd be a true cause for concern and a case study for counselors. On film, though, he is just a reliable source of comedy.

While Fred is a funny character, a fact proved in a few amusing demonstrations, the movie doesn't do enough to support him. Since his business is inexplicably doing fine, an obstacle comes from the home front. There, his attractive wife (Mary Jane Bostic) -- another mystery -- confesses to living up to his suspicions of promiscuity with her new boss. She takes off for a few days, dealing Fred a blow as he tries to remain absorbed in his tae kwon do class.

Sitting on his desk, Fred really makes a special connection with one of his students (Collette Wolfe). Or so he thinks. On the couch between his wife (Mary Jane Bostic) and his hero Chuck "The Truck" (Ben Best), Fred is feeling pretty good about life.

Hardly anything else that unfolds seems significant enough to mention. The movie definitely wanders while coming up with opportunities for Fred to prove himself a failure. He makes a pitiful pass at a pretty, friendly pupil (Collette Wolfe). He swears left and right in front of his two mistreated "apprentices"
(Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez IV). He meets his hero, martial arts expert and B-movie star Chuck "The Truck" Wallace (co-writer Ben Best), and actually connects with him, only to further embarrass himself.

The humor never reaches the gut-busting hilarity quietly strove for, but diverting encounters are scattered throughout. Taste fluctuates, as uncomforting crudeness creeps up now and again amidst the youthful cast. There's far too much board-breaking to be found in the brisk 80-minute body. And though the quasi-mockumentary tone seems appropriate, it's not maintained. The whole thing is uneven and often miscalculated. The mistakes made here are all pretty forgivable, considering this is the work of newcomers with limited funds and no voice of experience on hand. That doesn't make The Foot Fist Way a good movie, but it does make its shortcomings easy to tolerate.

One of the bigger problems is in characterization. Fred is clearly our protagonist and meant to elicit some sympathy. But he's a jerk and never ceases to be anything else, except when he is upstaged by an even bigger jerk. With no change or redemption is in sight, it becomes clear that the film hasn't come up with enough clever situations for that to be okay. Slightly tweaked, the film could have had pathos and heart. As is, the story is almost non-existent and the whole thing leaves one feeling kind of dirty.

Paramount recently issued The Foot Fist Way on DVD. Furthering the unorthodox release strategy, the disc is exclusive to Best Buy in the United States, although four weeks since streeting, it's now easy to find via second-hand markets online.

Buy The Foot Fist Way on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, Spanish),
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: September 23, 2008 (Best Buy exclusive),
February 10, 2009 (general retail)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 (Reduced from $21.99
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps


The Foot Fist Way doesn't look as bad as you might fear from its frugal bottom line. The picture in this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is definitely a lot grainier than most modern films, but one suspects that's a result of a style choice and limited production means, and not a shoddy DVD transfer. Colors and sharpness are good.

The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack gives the front three speakers most of the work. An occasional unknown prerecorded song spices up the proceedings, but dialogue remains the key feature and it is adequately conveyed. In a strange design choice, the movie has the trite tenets of Fred's dojo serve as intertitles, which are punctuated by jarringly boosted musical cues.

Without a doubt, this sepia-toned behind the scenes featurette is one of the strangest DVD extras you'll ever encounter. Suzie talks about her new job with dinner guest (Danielle Jarchow) in this deleted scene. Danny McBride improves along with the actor playing Fred's young deleted neighborhood pal.


Bonus features begin with an audio commentary by director Jody Hill, star Danny McBride, and production designer Randy Gambill. Between the modest production (shot in just 19 days!) and their novice status,
they bring both information and enthusiasm to the track. It's fairly interesting and, even when flagging, it remains an easy listen. There's gladly not as much laughing at their work as you might expect/fear, even though we hear the click of a suspiciously active lighter every once in a while.

Definitely not your typical DVD inclusion, an untitled behind the scenes featurette (25:10) consists entirely of silent, heavily-filtered black & white production footage set to instrumental music. Someone has put in a lot of time to edit together this wealth of short snippets. I don't really understand why it's here, though. It seems more apt for wrap party and even that is questionable. When it began I assumed it was an overlong introduction montage, but it doesn't go anywhere else. Is it a joke by the filmmakers? An endurance challenge? I'm still trying to figure it out.

Unlike your standard outtakes reel, "Bloopers" (2:12) gives us just a number of takes of two scenes (one deleted) that McBride fights laughs to get through.

Twenty additional scenes are next, running just shy of 31 minutes altogether. They offer an extension of the weeknight couples dinner and a lot more interaction between Fred and supporting characters. There are more scenes with wife Suzie, creepy friend Mike (director Jody Hill), and a neighborhood boy who's completely missing from the final cut. The footage is somewhat raw; Hill's directions are audible, you hear the "cut" call. Much of it is obviously improvised and a lot of it was wisely deleted. There are, however, some amusing moments, so if you enjoyed the film, there's no reason to skip what is the disc's best supplement.

Finally, there is an alternate ending titled "Fred Murders Suzie" (1:11), which is just as unfunny as it sounds.

Disc-loading trailers promote Defiance, The Love Guru, and American Teen. The same three play from the menu's "Previews" listing after unappealing spots for Kenny vs. Spenny: Volume One Uncensored and "South Park": The Complete Eleventh Season Uncensored.

The static, silent menus reuse the design and imagery of the poster and cover, showing creativity only in the fight silhouette cursors. There are no inserts inside the case.

"The Foot Fist Way" never explains that its title is a literal English translation of "taekwondo." Hoping to regain his composure, Fred gives himself a close look in the mirror.


The Foot Fist Way gets decent mileage out of its shoestring budget and definitely has more going for it than many big budget mainstream comedies. Though it doesn't meet its story potential for its intriguingly inept lead character, it does amuse occasionally. If you're a fan of foul-mouthed comedy and Danny McBride's subsequent work, you ought to give this a viewing. For those considering a purchase, a fine commentary and substantial chunk of deleted scenes give the disc some added value.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to DVD: Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition • Run Fatboy Run • The Love Guru (Blu-ray)
Featuring Danny McBride: Tropic Thunder • Drillbit Taylor • The Heartbreak Kid | Featuring Ben Best: Superbad
Independent Comedy: Son of Rambow • Eagle vs Shark • Smart People • Driving Lessons • Mama's Boy • Kickin' It Old Skool
Balls of Fury • Reno 911!: The Complete Fifth Season Uncensored • The Comebacks (Unrated) • The TV Set
Starring Producer Will Ferrell: Step Brothers • Semi-Pro • Blades of Glory • A Night at the Roxbury • The Wendell Baker Story

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Reviewed October 21, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Paramount Vantage, MTV Films, Gary Sanchez Productions, and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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