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"KUNG POW! ENTER THE FIST"
(2002) (Steve Oedekerk, Lung Fai) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A martial arts expert tries to track down the villain who killed his parents many years ago in this parody of bad martial arts films.
PLOT:
In this parody of poorly dubbed martial arts films, the Chosen One (STEVE OEDEKERK) is a martial arts expert who's been wandering the countryside for years, searching in vain for the villain who killed his parents when he was just a baby. Always under attack due to his chosen status and the unique character - "Tonguey" - that resides on the tip of his tongue, the man seeks refuge and help from Master Tang (CHEN HUI LOU) at his Crane School.

There, he meets Tang's various students, including Ling (TSE LING LING), who's assigned to help him, and Wimp Lo (LAU KAR WING) who's jealous of him being the Chosen One. Tang informs him that they've been waiting for him to help free them from the grips of the mysterious Council that controls Master Pain, a.k.a. "Betty" (LUNG FAI), who was responsible for murdering the Chosen One's family so long ago.

Realizing he's near, the Chosen one sets out to find Pain and get his revenge, but must wait to grow stronger for their battle, something that occurs with the aid of Tang, Ling and a mysterious, woman, Whoa (JENNIFER TUNG), who has just one large breast in the center of her chest.

OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
One of the more amusing moments in the 1993 comedy "Wayne's World 2" was its brief spoof of poorly made and dubbed Asian martial arts films. In it, Wayne (Mike Myers) most prove his worth to Mr. Wong (James Hong), his girlfriend Cassandra's (Tia Carrere) father.

With dubbed voices that match neither the actor's looks nor lips, over the top fighting styles, rapid camera zooming and exaggerated sound effects of even just arm movements, the scene managed to make fun of and pay homage to what have become known as "Chop-socky" films. Thankfully, the cast and crew were aware of just how far and how long they could run with such material, and thus it lasted only a few minutes.

Unfortunately, writer/director Steve Oedekerk - the writer of "The Nutty Professor" and "Patch Adams" and director of "Ace Ventura: When Nature calls" - either didn't see that film or learn its lesson of brevity as he's delivered a full-length version of what's essentially the same gag in "Kung Pow! Enter the Fist."

Taking the 1976 Hong Kong picture, "Hu He Shuang Xing" a.k.a. "Tiger and Crane Fists" and jettisoning the original dialogue and soundtrack in favor of new versions of both, and digitally inserting himself and other performers into the original footage, Oedekerk has delivered what's arguably the worst film of the year.

Feeling like a self-indulgent exercise - somewhat like last year's Tom Green fiasco "Freddy Got Fingered" - the film is awful from the get-go and never improves from there. Beyond retreading and elongating the "Wayne's World" sketch - not to mention copying Woody Allen who basically did the same thing with his 1966 film, "What's Up, Tiger Lily" (which was a re-dubbed version of the Japanese spy caper "Kagi No Kag") - the filmmaker has created one of those vanity projects - in which he also stars -- that he apparently believed was some terrific comedy.

Like the "WW2" bit, this one features purposefully bad dubbing -- in both timing and matching the voice to the performer (even a dog's bark arrives seconds after the act) -- as well as the rest of the staples of bad martial arts films from the past such as exaggerated action sound effects, unbelievable fight choreography, etc.

While there's obviously some comedic potential there, the film never goes beyond poking fun at the obvious, and simply delivers predictable jabs at the source material. It doesn't help that the effort suffers from various sorts of other problems. For starters, this sort of parody isn't conducive to full-length treatment and quickly wears out its welcome long before the merciful end is anywhere within sight.

Then there's the fact that one can only do so much with such source material - namely the original martial arts film - that's awful to begin with. The point, of course, is to make fun of that condition, but the original film's repetitive nature - or at least what Oedekerk has left intact - doesn't allow for a great range of possibilities.

The most glaring problem, though, is that the filmmaker's efforts - whether as writer, director or star - aren't remotely funny. His onscreen presence - as the "Chosen One" looking to avenge his parents' deaths - is repetitive and annoying, and little of what his character does, says or encounters is particularly humorous.

The film's signature set piece - of him fighting a CGI cow that's been watching too many Jet Li films - falls flat on its face, with the various "Matrix" inspired moments eliciting little but the "been there, seen that too many times by now" reaction from viewers.

Oedekerk's behind the scenes writing and direction - namely the insertion of new material and dialogue into the proceedings - comes off as a lame and tired version of what "Mystery Science Theater 3000" used to do so brilliantly on a regular basis. Banal at best and often atrociously bad the rest of the time, very little of the "new" material is amusing - save for one riff on a glaring continuity error regarding a character's clothes changing color within the same scene - let alone laugh out loud funny or hilarious.

The result is a film that obviously took some technical effort - what with the blue screen work to digitally insert the characters into the old film - but apparently not as much on the imaginative side. While it's possible a few viewers might laugh along with the filmmaker at his comedy or attempts thereof, the mono-boob woman, the face on the end of the tongue, the "Lion King" parody and all of the goofy sound effects and wacky voices - two of which sound like lame imitations of Cheech Marin and Miss Piggy (all courtesy of Oedekerk himself) - will likely fail to amuse most everyone else.

Rarely do I really want to get up and leave only a few minutes into any film - no matter how bad it might initially seem - but this one had me itching to flee rather early on. About the only good thing that can be said about the film is that it's less than 90 minutes long. Beyond that, it's an exercise in monotonous jokes and humor that simply isn't funny. "Kung Pow! Enter the Fist" rates as a 0 out of 10.




Reviewed January 25, 2002 / Posted January 25, 2002


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