If it falls short of doing for chopsocky cinema what “Airplane!” did for the formerly friendly skies, neither is Steve Oedekerk’s “Kung Pow Enter the Fist” the unwatchable embarrassment Fox clearly thought it had when the studio delayed its release and declined to screen it for the press (the first such picture of 2002). As a result of this strategy, consistently silly and intermittently laugh-out-loud funny spoof will be consigned primarily to genre fans, with cult biz and possible college drinking games erupting in ancillary.
In much the same way Woody Allen re-recorded the dialogue and turned a 1964 Japanese spy movie into the egg salad intrigue epic “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?,” industrious hyphenate Oedekerk has sliced and diced the 1976 Mandarin-lingo “Tiger & Crane Fists” into an affectionate burlesque of martial arts sagas. Fresh pass at pic supplements vintage footage with newly shot sequences and the kind of surreal, biologically oriented CGI helmers have been fooling with for some time now, both in live action (the Ace Ventura and Nutty Professor franchises) and animation (“Thumb Wars” and a handful of other recent “filmettes”).
Oedekerk essays the title role of the Chosen One with a Bruce Lee-Jackie Chan bowl cut glued to his head. Following an oddly serious title card reminding auds they’re watching an old movie redubbed, prologue finds the infant Chosen One beating the crap out of Master Pain (Lung Fei). As a grown man, “Chosen,” as he’s sometimes called, must do battle with his evil nemesis, who for some reason changes his name to Betty, while protecting the dotty Master Tang (Chen Hui Lou). Along the way he’s attracted to the flighty Ling (Hsieh Ling-ling), is advised by the mono-breasted mystery warrior Whoa (Jennifer Tung) and does battle with a very angry and tenacious cow. Finale finds him victorious over the unseen Evil Council, which of course lives in France.
Per Oedekerk, new cast was supposed to speak alongside original thesps, but he had such a ball dubbing everybody that his and Tung’s voices are the only two heard — except for Chosen’s faithful dog, who obliges by barking out of sync. This helps to keep things moving, as he freely mixes a broad range of accents and textures into the mix, and even falls back on what sound like vocal exercises when all else fails.
During the course of skewering most of the genre’s tropes, the gags run the gamut from silly to the not-so-silly: There’s a brief, fake intermission, Chosen’s facial contortions result in a popped blood vessel and Betty has a habit of pounding on Master Tang while a digitally added assistant plays “U Can’t Touch This” and “Baby Got Back” on a boombox.
Tech credits are purposefully and skillfully crummy, with lenser John J. Connor’s distressed footage matching seamlessly with the original. Story actually ends at the 72-minute mark, followed by a preview of the fictitious sequel, “Kung Pow II: Tongue of Fury.” Outtakes, staged gags and behind-the-scenes bluescreen sequences run under the credits, during which a clapperboard bearing original title “The Dubbed Action Movie” can be seen.
Pic bears a 2001 copyright and thanks Jimmy Wang Yu, who helmed and starred in 1976 pic, as well as the three original leads — while clarifying that none of them had anything to do with this production.
Tiger & Crane Fists
Hu He Shuangxing
A First Films release of a Wong Cheuk-hon, Luk Pak-sang, Wang Feng production.
Directed by Jimmy Wang Yu; screenplay, Yi Kwan; editor, Mak Tzu-shan; camera (color), Chung Yin-chien; lighting, Tsao Hsiao-pin; martial arts choreographers, Lau Ka-wing, Jen Shih-kuan; music, Wong Mao-shan. Reviewed at State Theater, Hong Kong, Aug. 6, 1976. Running time: 90 MIN.
Chang Sheng-chiang – Jimmy Wang Yu
Lu Tien-chu – Lau Ka-wing
Also with: Lung Fei, Hsieh Ling-ling.