Kung Phooey!

"Kung Phooey!" marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. After a good run at specialized and smaller fests, pic will have a summer U.K. release; Stateside prospects other than homevid seem unlikely.

With:
With: Michael Chow, Joyce Thi Brew, Karena Davis, Colman Domingo, Darryl Fong, Wallace Choy, Robert Wu, Stuart Yee, Fred Salvallon.

“Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise is on a par with “Fear of a Black Hat,” which similarly skewered African-American cultural standards. After a good run at specialized and smaller fests, pic will have a summer U.K. release; Stateside prospects other than homevid seem unlikely.

Bathed in spoofery but clearly pitched to an aud hip to its racial politics, the movie knowingly begins as a deliberately bad-looking rip-off of King Hu adventures. Art Chew (vet H.K. thesp Michael Chow) gains spiritual and martial arts mastery at the Shur-li Temple (get it?) and goes on a quest to the U.S. to find the Ancient Peach, reputed to contain the nectar of eternal youth. He picks up two hapless buddies on the way, Waymon (Fong) and Roy Lee (Colman Domingo), a black dude who thinks he’s Bruce Lee come back to life.

Meanwhile, Charlie Chanesque archvillain Helen Hu (Joyce Thi Brew) wants the peach as badly as does Art. Visual jokes pile up like the bad guys but never at the kind of crackling pace this brand of spoof demands, and the verbal ripostes tend mostly to be of the groaner variety.

Fong, a vet Asian-American actor who can’t get a role that isn’t a waiter, servant or geeky student, has fashioned his frustrations into comedy, and though pic is several steps short of a fully accomplished indie work, it’s a well-targeted slap at Hollywood’s mistreatment of Asians and a fine way to employ as many Asian-Americans, both above the line and below, as possible.

Fong’s fellow cast members have fun, and Wallace Choy provides a droll spirit as well-meaning restaurateur Uncle Wong, who’s under Helen’s thumb. A slicker production wasn’t affordable, but it would have been wrong for this scrappy foolishness.

Kung Phooey!

Production: A Nakota Films and Kung Phooey Prods. presentation. Produced by Darryl Fong. Executive producers, John Lucasey, Simon Johnson. Directed, written by Darryl Fong.

Crew: Camera (color), Cliff Traiman; editors, Rick LeCompte, Steve S. Liu; music, Ryan Kallas, Kent Carter; production designer, Mulan Chan; art director, Katho Baer; costume designer, Shari Crane; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Curtis Choy; supervising sound editors, Jeff Darby, Garth May; makeup, Lisa Zomer; stunt coordinator, John Ashker; fight choreography, Philip Wong; associate producers, Michael Chow, Cliff Traiman; assistant director, Brad Marshland; casting, Michael Ching. Reviewed at VC Filmfest, L.A., May 2, 2003. (Also in San Francisco Asian American Film Festival; WorldFest Houston.) Running time: 87 MIN.

With: With: Michael Chow, Joyce Thi Brew, Karena Davis, Colman Domingo, Darryl Fong, Wallace Choy, Robert Wu, Stuart Yee, Fred Salvallon.

More Film

  • King Cohen review

    Film Review: 'King Cohen'

    “Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise […]

  • 'The Equalizer 2' Review

    Film Review: Denzel Washington in 'The Equalizer 2'

    “Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise […]

  • Stan Dragoti 'The Last Boyscout' PremiereDecember

    Stan Dragoti, Director of 'Mr. Mom,' 'Love at First Bite,' Dies at 85

    “Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise […]

  • Jagged Edge

    Film News Roundup: Halle Berry's 'Jagged Edge' Remake Finds Writer

    “Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise […]

  • Kate Winslet Diane Keaton Mia Wasikowska

    Kate Winslet, Diane Keaton, Mia Wasikowska to Star in 'Silent Heart' Remake

    “Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise […]

  • (L to R) Young Tanya (JESSICA

    'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    “Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise […]

  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

    'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' Stage Musical in the Works

    “Kung Phooey!” marks a shrewd first project for writer-director Darryl Fong, who sends up not just martial arts movies but a whole galley-full of Chinese and East Asian cliches in a way no Anglo director could. Individual jokes stand out well after the pic has begun to wobble under its own weight, but overall premise […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content