KUNG POW: ENTER THE FIST
Review by Michael Jacobson
Steve Oedekerk, Jennifer Tung, Leo Lee
Director: Steve Oedekerk
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 81 Minutes
Release Date: July 23, 2002
does it hurt?”
much around the big bloody spot.”
get the Neosporin.”
would have to consider Steve Oedekerk’s Kung Pow as a risky undertaking
at best. Here is a movie geared
pretty much toward a very select crowd…one that has seen enough Hong Kong kung
fu pictures to appreciate his little digs at the nuances and stylings of them.
Those who haven’t might find their brains clawing their way out of
their heads to escape the lower-order lunacy.
I happen to be of the former crowd, and while Kung Pow is far from
perfect, I still give it high marks for being an impeccable spoof of a genre I
know and love well, as well as for technical feat and originality.
Steve Oedekerk actually has done one better than just create a martial arts
spoof out of thin air. He has
actually taken an obscure 1976 Hong Kong release entitled Tiger and Crane
Fist, and using the same technology that allowed Forrest Gump to talk to
presidents, puts himself in the middle of the action.
The original somber, tragic tone has been replaced by sheer loony fun as
Oedekerk, as The Chosen One, trains, fights and milks his way through a good old
fashioned Hong Kong revenge tale.
all starts when The Chosen One is an infant…his family is killed by the evil
Master Pain, who later inexplicably re-dubs himself Betty.
Even as a babe in the cradle, The Chosen One has some moves, and if
you’re like me and have never seen a baby kicking major butt, you’ll be in
for your first big laugh sequence.
Chosen One grows up and is marked by a thing on the tip of his tongue that
you’ll have to see for yourself. He
seeks revenge against Master Pain…er, Betty, but he’ll need some help along
the way. He finds friendship in
another martial arts Master, Ling, his lovely daughter Whoa (Tung), who benefits
most from the film’s zany editing style., and Wimp Lo (“He is an idiot…we
have purposely trained him wrong as a joke…”)
There are many fights along the way, as The Chosen One takes on hoards of
Betty’s men, uses gopher-chuks to save the day, and even does battle with a
cow…in an age of movies that have gone mad with Matrix spoofs, the
cow-fight boasts the best one I’ve yet seen…it’s udderly fantastic
the plot is inconsequential. The
REAL humor comes from the digs at aspects fans know and love about these Hong
Kong movies. The sudden zooms with
melodramatic music cues. The wire
work. Most importantly, the
horrendous dubbing…Oedekerk and company had a field day putting new words into
old actors’ mouths, and as an added touch, he and his modern insert characters
don’t speak their actual dialogue, either, but meaningless gibberish in order
to continue the bad-dubbing effect throughout!
(As a bonus on this disc, you can listen to an audio track containing the
original Mandarin dialogue and what Steve and his cohorts actually did say on
can easily be overlooked, however, is the technical triumph this movie
is…easily overlooked because it seems so effortless. Scenes you’d assume were shot brand new with character
doubles haven’t been; take a closer look and you’ll see the work that went
into inserting Oedekerk into the original 1976 film. He interacts with the other characters flawlessly; he touches
them, fights them, even carries one with an arm around his shoulder.
Other scenes are more simply accented by, say, adding a man with a boom
box in the background so that a fight scene can be carried out to the tune of
“Baby Got Back”.
know many critics dismissed this film, and their reasons are indicative of the
two crowds of film fans I mentioned earlier.
Many did not get the point of the obviously out-of-sync dubbing, and
those who didn’t had no chance of getting anything else about the picture,
either. I love the kung fu genre,
and it’s Oedekerk’s sense of ridiculing everything about those movies that
can be ridiculed that made this picture into a fun experience for me.
The other side of the coin, however, is that the picture will have little
to no comic value to those without experience in the classic Hong Kong action
I speak instead to those like me, who enjoy their action films from Asia, who
like to laugh at horrendous English dubbing, and who think the exaggerated sound
effects of a Hong Kong fight scene are as much a part of cinematic vocabulary as
the whooshing of a light saber. For
us, Kung Pow offers an hour and a half of silly, irreverent fun.
is the hard part…how do you judge a picture that’s largely composed of
footage from a 1976 Hong Kong film, where the modern clips are actually made to
look just as old as the original picture? I
think you just have to commend it for achieving the look it was striving for and
leave it at that. So of course, Kung
Pow is not going to be one of the best looking DVDs you own, but if it were,
that would spoil part of the fun. Again,
this falls under the category of whether or not you appreciate the old classic
martial arts pictures enough to get the visual joke!
shoddy about the audio track, however, which uses 5.1 capabilities to expand the
goofy sound effects of kung fu movies into new dimensions!
The audio is gleefully overdone, making use of all channels with smooth
crossover, dynamic punch and plenty of action…hell, even simple gestures get
wind slicing sound effects. Badly dubbed dialogue never sounded so good, either!
DVD is labeled “The Chosen Edition”, and Fox has packed it nicely with
extras, starting with some very nicely done menu screens. There are three audio options, including a fun and frenetic
commentary track by Steve Oedekerk and producer Paul Marshal that’s both funny
and detailed. A second, as
mentioned, is the ability to listen to the pre-dubbed original audio, and a
third is a strange but amusing book-on-tape play by play.
Those are just the beginning.
is a short making-of featurette, and three special effects vignettes that
demonstrate how Oedekerk was placed into the film, how the cow fight worked, and
the original computer animatic for the cow fight. There are 14 deleted scenes and 6 alternate takes (some of
which are quite funny), a trailer, a “panicked thumb” (a quick clip from
Oedekerk’s Thumb Wars), and at least of couple of Easter eggs to be
out is a photo gallery, some Fox TV spots, and a “fond farewell”.
All in all, a features package fit for a Kung!…er, king…