2006's Kung Fu Master is My Grandma is a dramatic comedy, one that aims for the light, family friendly, teen girl crowd. It has typical sappy moments, young generation vs. old generation dynamics, some romantic elements, and goofy humor. Oh yeah, and just a smidgen of kung fu.
Gucci (Isabel Chan) is a hot-headed girl. Her temper lands her in juvie after she assaults a wiseass jerk twice in the same night. She emerges from the clink to find that her mother died in an accident and her grandmother (Law Lan) is now her guardian. Apparently in China, it isn't considered bad form to just spring the news on a poor kid that her single parent has tragically died. Granny Wong Fei Hung and Gucci don't really know each other very well and have almost no communication. Gucci tries to spend a lot of time away from home while Granny silently frets. There isn't any great depth to the plotting, it is pure cliche, so one knows it is just a matter of time before there is some spark unites the two and tears will be shed, hugs will be shared, and lessens will be learned.
The kung fu aspect really just boils down to the joke referencing they make with Granny Fei Hung and the neighborhood residents, all of whom are some geriatric caricature of the followers of the real historical martial master Wong Fei Hung. Granny really only flexes her martial muscle in one scene, and Law Lan, while an HK cinema veteran, doesnt exactly have much in the way of legit kung fu chops. My expectation was that there would be some mentor/student aspect between Gucci and Granny with Gucci learning some self respect and control through martial arts but no such thing materializes. While she joins in with some morning Tai Chi, Gucci learns respect for her grandmother mostly by observing how the neighborhood reveres her.
In the absence of some thoughtful or inventive plotting, Kung Fu Master is My Grandma plays to the usual, predictable cliches. The film has some serious padding in the form of lazy montages. Why have dialogue or rely on your actor to convey their internal feelings when you can insert some b-roll footage of her walking around, throw in some split screen and slow motion effects, and then slap on a weepy pop ballad over the thing? Visually, the direction doesn't help much as much of the film is clunky and has excessive wide angle close ups.
The DVD: Tai Seng/Mei Ah.
Picture: Kung Fu Master is My Grandma is presented in Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. I'm not sure if this film was a telefilm or direct to video flick but the quality is strictly low budget, shot on video, nothing that will amaze your peepers. I'll give this a sliding scale in terms of stars. All the weak elements are purely chalked up to the cruddy quality of the source. It lacks definition and is a noisy, video artifact riddled affair. Your podunk local news probably looks better.
Sound: Two audio options include original Cantonese and a Mandarin dub. Subtitle options include Chinese (traditional and simplified) and English. Again, the flaws are all poor source quirks like cheap mixing and low quality recording. The English subs have a few wonky translations, not so much in the area of misspellings as odd phrasings. Luckily there is nothing so severe that you cannot figure out in an instant what they were trying to say.
Extras: The extras are limited to a trailer and some trivial cast and crew info and synopsis text.
Conclusion: The audience for this is going to be pretty small. I cannot imagine many English speaking teen girls or families who want to pop in a subbed, low budget, cliched HK drama. Maybe of interest to homesick Chinese-Americans, but otherwise I sadly have give this one a skip it or at the absolute most a rental.