After finding out I had recently sat through Scooby Doo, my friends all asked me what I thought. “I thought it would suck a lot, but since it only sort of sucked, it was better than I had imagined.”
In all honesty, I was prepared to write the same review for Kung Pow: Enter the Fist even before I had seen it. Despite the obvious attempt at being campy, I was sure the project would be botched. I already had an entire review mentally prepared on how they were destroying and mocking the genre.
Boy was I wrong.
First of all, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is funny. If you’re looking for a silly kung-fu based flick, you’ll enjoy it. If you are a fan of late ’70’s kung-fu movies (including their bad dubbing and horrible revenge-style plots), you’ll enjoy it even more. If you like those movies and liked either the kung-fu parody included in the Kentucky Fried Movie, Woody Allen’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?”, or Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’ll find this movie downright hilarious. I know I did. That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have failed gags or slow parts, but the concept, the comedy, the jokes, and the dialogue all came together in a very funny combination to me.
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is a “reworking” of a 1976 Hong Kong movie titled “Hu He Shuang Xing” (English translation, “Tiger & Crane Fists”). Steve Oedekerk, the mastermind behind this project, took the original footage, mixed it around, and made a new story out of it. Then, he digitally inserted himself throughout the entire film, playing “The Chosen One” (this was done using several different methods, explained later). Once he had magically “joined” the old film, he then went through and redubbed the entire film with new dialogue, performing all of the voices himself as well.
The story that has been created is that of “The Chosen One”. As an infant, the Chosen One’s family was murdered by Master Pain. When he tried to kill the Chosen One, The Chosen One (who has no other name other than the Chosen One, which is annoying to type over and over) fights back which leads to a CGI laden scene reminiscent of the “Ugachaka” baby. The Chosen One eventually escapes, and spends the next thirty years of his life wandering the lands, being randomly attacked by thugs for being The Chosen One.
How do all these rogues KNOW he’s the Chosen One? Because his tongue has a “face” on the end of it, which you may have seen during the trailer. Affectionately named “Toungie”, the two eyes and mouth on the end of his tongue scream “ya-ya-ya-ya-ya!” and “hi-ya!” when attacking, but don’t do much more.
The Chosen One eventually finds his way to Master Tung’s village. There, he meets the rest of the cast of characters. Wimp Lo is a young fighter who Master Tung “trained to fight wrong as a joke.” Wimp Lo is also wearing squeaky shoes, a foley joke that never gets old. Ling is the young maiden of the village who is torn between Wimp Lo and the Chosen One. Besides Master Tang, we also meet Master Doe and Chew Fat Lip as well.
As is the case in many Kung Fu movies of the time, The Chosen One must complete his quest by training, fighting various bad guys, and most importantly avenge the death of his family by discovering Master Pain’s weaknesses and defeating him in a one-on-one showdown.
The movie plays pretty well. Some gags don’t work, but most do. Some of the scenes seemed unnecessarily long, some short, but for the most part everything worked out. The movie’s subtle jokes work better than the blatant, in-your-face stuff. The never-ending battle between the Chosen One and an evil CGI cow isn’t nearly as funny as some of the one liners that snuck their way into the movie. When the Chosen One arrives into town, Wimp Lo comments to Ling, “there’s a stranger in town. Have you seen him before?” to which she answers, “No. Well, twice.” Little lines like that kept me laughing all 80 minutes. When the Chosen One tells Master Tang he has travelled many miles to meet him, Master Tang asks him back, “would you say you walked … ten MILLION miles?” Kung Pow doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should you.
The DVD presentation of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist contains enough extras to keep you entertained for a weekend, or if you really enjoy the movie, one long night. As all good DVD’s should, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist contains a commentary track, where Steve Oedekerk and his co-writer give a lot of insight on how the film came together. Oedekerk spends just a but too much time trying to be wacky and zany, but the majority of the information presented is very interesting.
Besides other languages, there are two other complete audio tracks included on the DVD. One is the “Books on Tape” audio track, which consists of an actor using a Shakespearian voice to read every line in the movie. Similar to the “Thermian” audio track on the Galaxy Quest DVD (in which the whole movie is translated an alien language not understandable by us, the viewers), the “Books on Tape” audio track is more interesting than entertaining.
Another audio track is the “What are they actually saying?” audio track. Since Steve Oedekerk knew all the lines would be overdubbed, so everywhere a new actor appears they are speaking goofy lines. “Tell me about the pastries,” one guy says before beating the Chosen One with a stick. “MY PASTRIES ARE VERY GOOD!” he cries back. Again, there’s no sense at all to this audio track, but it’s kind of funny to watch through and see what people were actually saying. This track also contains what they were originally saying in the OLD footage, so a lot of it is in Chinese.
Every other extra you could expect is on the disc. Several deleted scenes, a technical “how’d they do that?” featurette (which is fascinating when you realize the time and money that must’ve been spent creating this low brow masterpiece), trailers, promos … you name it, it’s on here. Every possible last scene or bit of information is on here. Don’t wait for the Kung Pow: Special Edition to be released — this is it, folks!
There’s also a quick “thumb” scene accessable from the main menu (by quick, I mean two seconds). That sent me directly to IMDB to discover that yes, Steve Oedekerk is the genius behind the “thumb” movies (Blair Thumb, Thumbtanic, and Thumb Wars – The Phantom Cuticle, to name a few). Besides those, Oedekerk wrote (or helped write) Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Nutty Professor I and II, Patch Adams, and more. He also served as a writer on TV’s In Living Color. He’s also got a slew of producing, acting, and directing credits as well.
And that’s exactly what you’re getting here. A little Ace Ventura, a little Nutty Professor, a little bit In Living Color and a whole ‘lotta Kung-Fu jokes. Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is innovative — the best application of technology is when you can’t even tell it’s there, which I experienced through much of Kung Pow (no, not during the cow fight scene, dumbass). The dubbing is hilarious, the plot is okay, and the idea is top notch. One thing I can say for Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is that it suffers from one of the worst trailers of all time. Not only is it not funny, it’s actually annoying, and consists of some of the least funny clips of the movie. The cow fighting scene is absolutely ruined, as the only way it would be funny is if you were “surprised” by a Cow-Fu attack (yeah, I made that up). Kung Pow: Enter the Fist was a pleasant surprise, a semi-new and somewhat fresh idea on an old genre.