Stephen Chow as Sing (Brother #5)
Vicki Zhao as Mui
Man Tat Ng as Golden Leg Fung
Yin Tse as Hung
Yut Fei Wong as Iron Head (Big Brother #1)
Kwok Kuen Chan as Empty Hand (Brother #4)
Ming Ming Cheung
Lam Chi Chung as Weight Vest (Little Brother #6)
Chi-Sing Lam as Hooking Leg (Brother #2)
Chi Wan Sik
Kai Man Tin as Iron Shirt
Widescreen (1.85:1) Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French Language Track (U.S. Version)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
This film was originally released in China in 2001. It hit the U.S. in 2004.
“Golden Leg” Fung is a washed up soccer star. 20 years ago his leg was broken during a match thanks to treachery by the evil player Hung. Now that he’s hit rock bottom, he’s just about given up his dream of coaching a team. It is then that he meets Sing. Sing is a poor yet spirited vagrant who was once a Shaolin Kung Fu master. He’s desperate to find a way to bring the Shaolin philosophy to the masses. When the two meet they get the idea to bring Sing’s martial arts skills to the soccer playing field.
Sing proceeds to try and get a team together with his other former kung fu students. Unfortunately, none of them are interested in joining though they, too, have hit bottom and have forgotten their Shaolin ways. Eventually they relent and get their groove back. The kung fu team proceeds to take the soccer world by storm with their supernatural powers and superhuman skills. But when they eventually face off with Hung’s evil team (appropriately named Team Evil), they may have met their match.
Shaolin Soccer is rated PG for martial arts action and some thematic elements.
I generally have liked the recent string of movies that have been imported to the U.S. from Asia. I love Jackie Chan’s old movies, Iron Monkey, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and more. They all featured exciting stunts, breathtaking action, and bizarre comedy. I was perfectly willing to accept people flying, dumb jokes that didn’t translate well, and more. So I thought I was really going to love Shaolin Soccer, but I didn’t. I think this is one of the first Asian imports that I’ve seen where I couldn’t get into the film thanks to cultural differences. The clowning, jokes, and random jumps in the story never appealed to me that way I imagine they did with audiences in China. Because of this, I had a hard time getting into this action comedy.
Generally when I watched some of these other Asian films, I could forgive the bad acting, absurd storylines, and baffling dialogue because the stunts were so cool. While Shaolin Soccer has a lot of cool stunts, they are generally aided by extensive computer animation. In fact, I believe this is the most CGI that I’ve ever seen in a Chinese film. When the players kick the balls, they fly at supersonic speeds and leave trails behind that seem like they were ripped out of Twister. Some computer-animated players are thrown around like bowling pins. At other times the effects are subtler, like one of the players simply kicking around a ball or an egg. No matter how many effects you have, though, they can never top Jackie Chan ducking punches or dangling from a skyscraper. Because of this heavy use of CGI, the stunts didn’t seem as novel and I didn’t enjoy them as much.
A lot of the jokes were never that funny to me. For example, there are all sorts of gags surrounding “sweet buns” that didn’t seem that amusing. At one point a bunch of characters randomly start singing “Celebration” in the street while doing a dance number that was reminiscent of “Thriller”. Again, not so funny. Despite most of the jokes falling flat, I did really enjoy a few of them. For example, in one scene the female character Mui comes into the game to play. She walks onto the field and promptly runs right into the goal post. When she gets into position, she ends up standing in the wrong goal. These kinds of gags did make me laugh. Unfortunately there were more misses than hits.
Other than that, there’s not much more I can say about the film. The music was mediocre, the acting was pretty bad, and the story made little sense. In other words, it’s your general Asian B-Movie.
There are no extra features included on this DVD. However, both the U.S. and Chinese versions are included on this disc.
The Bottom Line:
I’d really only recommend this movie to big soccer fans and those that are really into Asian cinema. Everyone else will want to approach this with caution.