A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Shaolin Soccer

September 21, 2010

Shaolin Soccer

Since yesterday’s movie inexplicably turned out not to be subtitled we turned to a movie for tonight that we knew to be subtitled. I hadn’t seen this since it came out on DVD, but I remembered thinking that it was fun and cheesy. I was right.

Man Tat Ng is Fung, a disgraced former soccer star who was savagely beaten and crippled after he allowed himself to be paid to take a dive in a championship game twenty years ago. After twenty years of fawning to the man who convinced him to throw the game he is finally fired by the evil coach Hung. Stephen Chow plays Sing, a Shaolin master and wastrel who dreams of bringing the benefits of Shaolin to the masses. Sing believes that if he can just popularise Shaolin and bring it into the public consciousness he can make the world a better place. Sadly, however, his attempts have been futile. He tries, with disastrous results, to blend Shaolin and singing. He tries to live as a pacifist kung-fu master in an uncaring modern world. But it isn’t until Fung witnesses Sing as he defeats an entire gang of hoodlums using only a soccer ball that they strike upon the idea of blending Shaolin and soccer.

The two of them set out to find Sing’s brothers who trained in Shaolin with him when he was a boy. Each of them has a different speciality of mastery in the Shaolin arts. There’s Sing with his “Steel Leg,” and his brothers are “Iron Head,” “Iron Shirt,” “Light Weight,” “Lightning Hands,” and “Hook Leg.” Of course all of the brothers have lives of their own and don’t want Sing riling them up with mad notions of regaining their Sholin skills, but eventually he is able to win them over, and Fung is able to whip them into shape as a mighty soccer team. The question is, will it be enough for them to defeat coach Hung and his aptly named “Team Evil?”

There’s also a side plot involving Sing’s obsession with a shy dumpling-maker named Mui, who uses her mastery of Shaolin to make the most delicious sweet buns ever made. Mui acts as his inspiration in his quest to bring Shaolin to the people, and through him she is able to eventually stand up for herself and grow a spine. Ultimately they sort of save each other.

The whole movie is extremely tongue in cheek and played for laughs. It has a boisterous and very silly sense of humor. Very much in the vein of Jackie Chan’s work. Sort of a Drunken Soccer Master. But the film also boasts an absolutely awe-inspiring collection of fantastic digital effects and complex wire-work and stunts. Everything has a magical cartoon feel to it, somewhat like an anime come to life. In the soccer matches they don’t simply kick the ball, they spin and leap and the ball arcs about crazily, bursting into flame and tearing up the turf in its wake.

The final inevitable match between the Shaolin team and Team Evil is as much fun as any complex martial-arts battle ever was. (Team Evil has resorted to the nefarious use of underhanded American performance enhancing drugs to bring themselves to such a level that they threaten to beat our heroes into the ground.)

This movie is a wonderful juxtaposition of things that shouldn’t work together but do. It has broad slapstick humor, some tenderness, an honest heart, and a whole lot of kickass special effects. All mixed up together in a blender. It’s crazy, madcap, exciting and thrilling all in one. I had a lot of fun watching it again.

September 21, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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