He is the chosen one.
All I gotta say is that Woody Allen did it first, and did it better. In 1966, Allen took an obscure Asian action movie, dubbed over the soundtrack, and produced the belly-laugh inducing What's Up, Tiger Lily? In 2002, director/writer/star Bob Oedekerk (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Nutty Professor) rode the same railcar with his martial arts spoof Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. Oedekerk also took an old martial arts film (Tiger & Crane Fists), but instead of just dubbing new voices, he also inserted himself into the 1970s film footage. A big fat bomb upon its initial release (heck, it wasn't even reviewed by Roger Ebert), Kung Pow: Enter the Fist does a flying crane kick on DVD in a "Chosen Edition" care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
When an evil nemesis known as Master Pain (Fei Lung) kills his family, "The Chosen One" (Oedekerk) must wander the countryside in search of revenge for his fallen bloodline. Along the way he'll meet a girl with only one breast, a kung fu fighting cow, and a host of other wacky characters who will help "The Chosen One" on his way to his inevitable destiny. Let the opening of the fortune cookie begin!
It's been quite a while since I saw a movie as unfunny as Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. It's safe to say that I did not laugh once during the film's 81 minute running time (which, consequently, felt like two days). I may have smiled, but I felt no chortle, snigger, or guffaw escape my throat. I have no doubt that director/writer/star Oedekerk had noble intentions while making this film. Then again, I had noble aspirations as a child when I started snorting pixie stick candy up my nose, and look how far that got me.
I guess the idea of inserting yourself into old movie footage for comedic purposes seemed like a good idea at the time (that time possibly being 1983). I mean, hey—Forrest Gump did it with real life film footage and look how many Oscars that movie acquired! However, there's a strikingly brutal difference between Robert Zemeckis and Steve Oedekerk: Mr. Zemeckis has made such hits as Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, while Oedekerk directed the universally reviled Robin William's sap fest Patch Adams. See the difference?
Oedekerk's main problem is that he can't seem to come up with any humorous dialogue for the film's characters. When all else fails, it seems, Oedekerk's theory is dub over a funny sound (something along the lines of "blurp," "yaaaa," or "humph") and the audience will laugh heartily. I quickly learned that this theory has many, many holes in it. Loud farting sounds do not make up for wit and intelligence. Nor does a computer crafted cow fighting Oedekerk in the middle of a large pasture. First off, the cow looks fake. Period. End of story. Secondly, there are only so many squirting-milk-from-a-cow's-utters gags you can throw at your audience before they finally turn on you in revolt. The dubbing in the film is bad, but that's supposed to be the joke—like most old martial arts movies, the English dubs are completely out of sync. There are a few moments where this works well (a dog barks in silence, lays down, and right before the scene transition we hear a loud "woof"). Sadly, those moments are few and far between. Too many of the characters are far too whiney for their own good. As for Oedekerk as an actor, it was pretty hard to screw this up; all it took to play the Chosen One's character (and I use that word very loosely) were a few funny faces and a very cheesy looking Asian wig.
There isn't much else to say about this movie, except that it's a pretty lame attempt at comedy. The more movies I see by Oedekerk, the less I like his comedic abilities. And don't even get me started on his lame thumb movies (if you don't know what I am talking about, count yourself lucky). Oh yes, I almost forgot—as stupefying as this film was, I can honestly say that it did give me something I'd never seen before: a woman with a single cycloptic tit.
See kids, you learn (and see) something new every day.
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The simple fact is that this transfer wasn't made to look pretty—it's a movie from the 1970s, and it shows. Much of the image includes specks of grain, off colors, and muted black levels. Does this really distract from the viewing? Not really. Since I knew going in this was an old film with new film spliced in, I wasn't expecting video quality ala Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. So, while the transfer isn't that great, at least it's fitting for the movie it supports.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, and Dolby 2.0 Surround in French and Spanish. This 5.1 track is nothing special, though there are a few instances of surround use in both the front and rear speaker. However, the bulk of this mix is generally focused in the front and center speakers with the side speakers utilized mainly for ambient sounds and wacky special sound effects. Some of the dialogue sounds a tad distorted due to the age of the original film, though overall the dialogue, music, and effects are all clear of any excessive imperfections. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
And now we get to the all important extra features. I've come to the conclusion that the powers of evil and darkness are winning out over the forces of light and goodness. Why? Because every shitty movie that comes along on DVD ends up with 12 hours of extra features while great movies like The Apartment and Grosse Pointe Blank are void of almost any supplemental features whatsoever. Blecch.
Starting off the disc are a plethora of alternate soundtracks, including a commentary track by Steve Oedekerk and editor/producer Paul Marshall, the original Cantonese soundtrack to the film Tiger & Crane Fists, and a "Long Lost Book-on-Tape" version which must be heard to be believed. The commentary is much more entertaining than the film (but let's be honest—that's not a hard task to accomplish). Not surprisingly, the bulk of this track is made up of gags, jokes, and asides, plus a few goofy tales about the production. If you liked the film you'll like this track. The Book-on-Tape version is a retelling of Oedekerk's jokes and gags via a stuffy British voice. This was a pretty funny idea…until I got about ten minutes into it. Then I fell asleep.
Next up is a short behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with the director and stunt coordinator Todd Bryant. I was a little surprised at how enjoyable this featurette ended up being. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of bluescreens, stunt work, and effects work, and the interviews give some great production info for the curious fan. While I didn't like the movie, I did find it impressive how they blended the old footage with the new stuff. On that note are three visual effects features: "Visual Effects—Before and After Shots," "Cow Visual Effects—Before and After Shots," and "Pre Visualization Cow Animatics." Each of these is set to upbeat music and includes before and after shots of certain special effects. Very interesting if you're into how the effects stuff is achieved. Fourteen cut or extended scenes are included, each presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if I didn't like the movie I'm not going to be crazy about 14 separate cut scenes. Also included are six scenes with alternate dubbed dialogue. Once again, if you liked the movie…
Finally, there is a short "Tonguey Tribute" for Oedekerek's mystical mouth appendage, three promo spots, a theatrical trailer for the film (and one for the comedy dud Super Troopers), five separate photo galleries (including cast and crew info, press notes, and bios), a quick clip from one of Oedekerk's thumb movies, and a fond farewell from Mr. Oedekerk that is really, really, really funny.
If you look hard enough you'll also find an Easter egg featuring Oedekerk dancing to some music while his penis does a be-bop behind his shorts. Do yourself a favor: don't look too hard.
I just want to take this moment to thank Mr. Oedekerk for stealing 81 minutes of my life.
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is found guilty on all counts of bad comedy. Throw the book at it!
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Steve Oedekerk
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