Shaolin Soccer

If Wyle E. Coyote and the Roadrunner faced off on the soccer field, the result might resemble Hong Kong writer/producer/director star Stephen Chow's slapstick sports comedy, in which a ragtag soccer team's heart, grit and esprit de corps take them to the top. The film opens in 1981, as honest superstar "Golden Leg" Fung (Man Tat Ng) suffers a career-ending...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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If Wyle E. Coyote and the Roadrunner faced off on the soccer field, the result might resemble Hong Kong writer/producer/director star Stephen Chow's slapstick sports comedy, in which a ragtag soccer team's heart, grit and esprit de corps take them to the top. The film opens in 1981, as honest superstar "Golden Leg" Fung (Man Tat Ng) suffers a career-ending "accident" engineered by vengeful teammate Hung (Yin Tse), who's mad that Fung wouldn't help fix the big game. Twenty years later, the unscrupulous Hung is a mega-rich sports impresario and the crippled Fung is locker boy for Hung's steroid-enhanced Team Evil. Fung spirals further into despair after Hung fires him, but dares to dream again when he spots Shaolin-trained martial artist Sing (Stephen Chow) collecting garbage in downtown Hong Kong, using his "iron leg" to make the job look like child's play. Fung imagines coaching a super Shaolin soccer team, and persuades Sing to recruit the five monks-in-training with whom he studied as a child. Sing tracks them down and convinces them to abandon their boring adult lives and dust off their old skills, making time to fall in love with Tai Chi-trained sticky-bun maker Mui (Vicki Zhao), who's afflicted with acne so hideous that flies buzz around her festering face. As the team comes together, Fung enters his misfit band of Mighty Monks in a $1,000,000 competition, knowing that to win it they'll have to beat Team Evil, who play the dirtiest game in town. Miramax briefly retitled this Hong Kong blockbuster "Kung Fu Soccer," shuffled its release date for the better part of two years and dubbed and re-scored it for U.S. release — has this distributor ever released a martial arts movie whose soundtrack didn't features Carl Douglas's 1974 novelty hit "Kung Fu Fighting"? This tinkering probably isn't the desecration purists claim, since Chow is Asia's answer to Jim Carrey, and his films speak the universal language of pratfalls and sight gags. The worst dubbing in the world is powerless to undermine a good banana peel gag, and Chow's sense of humor is coarse even by the standards of broad Chinese comedy. The film's much-vaunted stunts are deliberately unrealistic, from over-the-top wire-work to CGI-soccer balls that streak through the air like flaming cannon balls. Overall, the cartoonish hijinks are unrestrained and frankly juvenile; whether that's praise or criticism is a matter of personal taste.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: If Wyle E. Coyote and the Roadrunner faced off on the soccer field, the result might resemble Hong Kong writer/producer/director star Stephen Chow's slapstick sports comedy, in which a ragtag soccer team's heart, grit and esprit de corps take them to the t… (more)

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