A Movie A Week:

Article from Issue #017

"Shaolin Soccer" Movie Review

3.5/5 Stars

[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]

I've noticed my lack of reviews for foreign, sports, and comedy movies, so I decided to cover one of the best of all those genres. That's right, I'm reviewing a Chinese soccer (football) comedy. Before you leave though, I think you should know it also incorporates Shaolin kung fu, special effects, and a potential Hollywood star with it's writer / director / leading man.

Shaolin Soccer poster art

I really hope you're already familiar with Shaolin Soccer but if not, I'm happy to be the one to introduce you. Stephen Chow is Sing "Mighty Steel Leg", a poor street cleaner and master of kung fu. He's tried to combine his martial art with every other non-talent he possesses in hopes of informing the world about his craft. Unfortunately, literal song and dance routines at the local bar aren't what people are looking for and this leaves Mighty Steel Leg and all of his equally skilled brothers in the slums for the most part. They've lost their touch with their Shaolin ways and it's going to take a disenfranchised soccer legend to get them back on track.

Sing runs in to "Golden Leg" Fung, a fallen soccer star and victim of a mob beating, and tries to encourage him to take kung fu lessons. Though Fung is now a cripple, he sees an opportunity to defeat the very man that organized his fateful assault. After some humerous attempts at getting the brothers back in shape, they manage to rediscover their respective techniques and form a winning Shaolin soccer team. Thanks to comic kicks and extreme jumps, Mighty Steel Leg is on his way to bringing kung fu into popularity and global attention. But of course their final match against Team Evil is filled with sinister surprises that may keep them from winning the championship.

This one's obviously not about the storyline but the jokes. And I'm not going to pretend it's not an acquired taste but you'll probably be glad you gave it a chance. Stephen Chow's humor is my kind of humor with the subtle expressions of his colorful cast and the absurdity of it all. Though not as absurd or even funny as Chow's follow-up 'Kung Fu Hustle', it's still "digitally erased wire" leaps and bounds above most comedies. Just make sure you watch it with the original Chinese audio track and English subtitles. The overacted and exaggerated dubbing only proves that the original is always better.

I can't put my finger on why the special effects blow away those of Hollywood movies from the same time period but they're pretty good. As with every other aspect of filmmaking, Chow had also improved on this by the time Kung Fu Hustle came around making it just that much better. The main reason to watch it is still the comedy which is often so chuckle-worthy that you'll sometimes find yourself just shaking your head with a smirk on your face. It's a great thing when comedy doesn't get lost in translation and only solidifies the genius of Stephen Chow's writing and direction. That's why I give Shaolin Soccer:

3.5/5 Stars

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What movie would you like to see John review next week? Your suggestions are always welcome at: john@cineweekly.com

- John Holliday -
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