Chinese funnyman Stephen Chow (think Chinese Jim Carrey) produces, co-writes, co-directs and stars as “Mighty Steel Leg” Sing, one of five brothers brought up as Shaolin Monks; all sport their own unique Shaolin skills and have the highest respect for all things Kung-Fu. However he and his fellow brothers are not having the greatest of success in life that their Shaolin faith has promised them. One is a recently demoted toilet attendant, another jobless, another a shelf stacker, another an overstressed businessman and Shin himself lives on the street collecting tin cans for loose change! Following a chance meeting with “Golden Leg” Fung, a down-and-out crippled soccer coach, the pair come together with the idea of promoting Kung-Fu through soccer and after assembling a team of the five brothers training begins. All is not great to begin with but eventually the brothers begin to feel their Shaolin powers returning, and they enter a national Supercup soccer tournament - proving hugely successful. The final test? To beat “Team Evil” - owned and coached by the man originally responsible for Golden Leg's disability...The formula is perfect in theory: take over bloated Matrixesque bullet-time effects; mix in lightening fast martial arts, then sprinkle in the kind of quick-witted gags you would expect from the Airplane! movies. There are references to Crouching Tiger, The Matrix, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and with that comes some very fast, noisy special moves involving fireballs, elaborate gravity defying wirework and an almost sarcastic underlying theme of “respect Kung-Fu for it is the key to life success”. The problem is that the movie is just not funny for a whole lot of the time; in fact it gets positively boring at moments. Some of the individual physical humour scenes really are full on laugh-out-loud moments, but you can't help but think the majority of the comedy is lost through translation. I fear there are many more references that a Western audience just won't get and there is bound to be a whole scope of humour lost through the translation to English. This, combined with a more Chinese sense of humour to start with, unfortunately gives Shaolin Soccer a huge disadvantage.All in all this makes it a tough one to call. The film is well shot, CGI effects are more than good enough for a comedy (although I would have liked to have seen a bit more on-the-ball choreography) and the soundtrack is excellent. The Chinese version is also the better for the three major scenes cut for the American release, and there are odd extra bits where US scenes have been cut short. However it just isn't that funny and doesn't have any sort of real plot to keep it otherwise interesting. All in all a disappointment, when it should really be hitting the funny bone of all Asian movie fans.
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