20 April 2008 | ChungMo
Stylish, Good Natured, and Incoherent Shaolin Soccer redo
A mess of genres but it's mainly based on Stephen Chow's genre mash-ups for it's inspiration. There's magic kung-fu, college romance, sports, gangster action and some weepy melodrama for a topping. The production is excellent and the pacing is fast so it's easy to get past the many flaws in this film.
A baby is abandoned next to a basketball court. A homeless man brings him to a Shaolin monastery that's in the middle of a city along with a special kung fu manual that the homeless man somehow has but can't read. The old monk teaches the boy but expires when he tries to master the special technique in the manual. The school is taken over by a phony kung fu master who is assisted by four wacky monks. The new master gets mad at the now 20+ year old boy for not pretending to be hurt by the master's weak punches and throws him out for the night. The boy is found throwing garbage into a basket from an incredible distance by a man who bring him to a gangster's club to play darts. This leads to a big fight, the boy's expulsion from the monastery and the man's decision to turn the boy into a college basketball sensation.
Al this happens in the first 20 minutes with most of it happening in the first 10 minutes. Aside from the extreme shorthand storytelling the first problem is how little we get to know the main character until way into the movie. The man who uses the boy is more sharply defined by the time the first third is over. The plot follows no new ground except for the insane action climax of the film. I'm sure you can easily imagine how the wacky monks will show up towards the end. The effects, photography and stunt work are all top- notch and make up for the uninspired plot.
Stephen Chow has a much better command of plot and comedy writing and this film will live in his shadow but that's not a good reason to ignore it. It's quite entertaining even with a scatter-shot ending. Recommended.