At the beginning of Jody Hill’s The Foot Fist Way, protagonist Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) is one confident dude. Owner of a successful suburban tae kwon do studio and self-proclaimed “King of the Demo” (for his so-called prowess in martial arts demonstrations in the parking lots of Concord, NC), Simmons struts his way through life, berating his students and voicing his politically incorrect opinions with conviction. But when his wife Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic) admits that she got “Myrtle Beach drunk” and cheated on him at an office party, Fred’s confidence and mastery are shaken to their core. His business suffers, he unsuccessfully seeks his own adulterous affair, and he even goes on a classic road trip with his best friend and two star pupils. And just when his life seems on the verge of spiraling completely out of control, he finds a chance of redemption in the form of a real-life confrontation with his hero, the mixed-martial arts movie star Chuck “The Truck” Wallace (Ben Best).
The Foot Fist Way hits theaters courtesy of Hill, McBride, and Best, who wrote the script and shot the film in North Carolina on a shoestring budget. Copies of the film made the rounds of Hollywood and became an underground hit with the likes of Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and Will Ferrell. In fact, previews of the film highlight Ferrell’s support in ushering it to the screen, which makes sense since The Foot Fist Way shares a lot with Will Ferrell movies like Semi-Pro, Blades of Glory, and Talladega Nights: the same man-child main character, similar physical humor, and offensive one-liners. If anything, McBride’s Fred Simmons is even less likable than Ferrell’s characters, yet by the end of the movie, he manages to win the audience’s admiration, partly because of the movie’s predictable message of never giving up in the face of adversity, but also because some of the people around him are simply much worse than he.
Although not technically a mockumentary, the movie uses the same hand-held camera work, rough cuts, and awkward silences that have been the signature of Christopher Guest movies and television series The Office. This style fits the subject matter and gives the movie a gritty, realistic quality that actually makes some of the jokes work more effectively. But the movie lacks shape at times, and while this keeps it from falling into the predictable rhythms of sports comedies and action films, it also leads to some less-than-clever moments. Ultimately, The Foot Fist Way has several sublime moments and many quotable lines, but it falls short of the extensive buzz that preceded it. Still, for those seeking a dose of “stupid comedy” this summer, The Foot Fist Way should satisfy your craving.