The Story: The Emperor is sick and he needs the Little Buddha to heal his malady. The evil Lord Filth wants to stop the Emperor from getting better so he attacks the temple and sends the 18 little kid monks fleeing, one of them secretly, unknowingly, being the precious Little Buddha. The little monks are under the care of the head monks niece, and she has a tough time wrangling the mischievous kids and hiding them from Lord Filth's men who scour the countryside. She must get the kids to Dragon Town and find a man named Sanda who knows how to identify the Little Buddha. She and the kids find an aid in a profit minded puppeteer named Wong Da Rong, who trains the kids in Drunken Fist style and arranges performances for them so they can earn enough money to travel to Dragon Town. But, Lord Filth is hot on their heels and willing to murder the lot in order to become the next Emperor.
The Film: Little Drunken Masters (1995) is a low budget independent affair that is monumentally dumb and thinly plotted, basically going from one gag to the next. But, then again, its also a kids movie. Sure, Chinese kids who can appreciate a good kick, blood spitting, eye gouging, fight and frequent cursing and poop jokes, but a kids movie nonetheless. Come to think of it, Little Drunken Masters is no dumber than the movies I grew up with, like Apple Dumpling Gang and Escape from Witch Mountain. Certainly Apple Dumpling Gang would have been far more interesting to me if those kids had busted a few roundhouse kicks to Tim Conway and Don Knotts' skulls. In the span of maybe one minute Little DM has two separate scenes involving bowel movement jokes. I guess the real novelty is its outright stupidity and the stuff that it gets away with that US childrens films would never allow. Like, the little monks forcing Fatty (theres alwasy a fat kid in these films) to get drunk, or the part where the kids are hiding in a Church and the niece is dressed like Jesus, fake beard, robe, crucified, pretending to be a statue, or the burning of the bad guy in the finale, and the scene where the kids are eluding the guards, one kid gets his pants pulled down when a guard grabs him, so he pees in the guards face in order to escape. As dumb as it is, I was entertained, and certainly if I had kids, I'd rather plop my own six yr old in front of the screen for Little DM instead of Loin King, but my kids will also probably be highly disturbed.
As for the talent, all of the kids are fine, though the only real personality or kid given a name is Fatty. None of the kids is as good a martial performer as Tze Mui (New Legend of Shaolin, My Father is a Hero), but they get the job done. Poor Willie Chi, the star that never was from the great Burning Paradise and the pathetic Drunken Master 3 plays Wong Da Rong their annoying puppeteer kung fu savior. The niece, like the kids she never given a name, is played by Carmen Lee from Wicked City, Lovers Tears, Legend of the Wolf and Stephen Chow's Forbidden City Cop. The bad guy, Lord Filth, is played by the great Xin Xin Xiong best known as Club foot from Once Upon a Time In China 3&4 and his great performance in Tsui Hark's muddled The Blade. The director was Siu Wing, whose only other credit is the HK horror flop and ineffectual Ring ripoff The Mirror.The action director, was Yuen Clan member Yuen Cheung Yan, who as part of the Yuen clan help do the action direction on such classics as Legend of a Fighter, Once Upon a Time in China and Fist of Legend, but basically he just phones in some pretty standard occasionally sped up, wide angle choreography, with a few neat wirework shots of Willie Chi running across the tops of guards heads, and a neat bit in the finale where the kids are inside huge yellow lanterns, surround Lord Filth, and stab him with knives when he punches inside the lanterns.
The DVD: World Video. Same old chapter stutter and layer change break, but at least its at a slightly lower MSRP than World Video usually charges for their lackluster, basic extra transfers.
Picture- Widescreen. The print is pretty washed out, brightness diluting the colors, contrast and sharpness. It isn't too bad, basically on par with a vhs, and such wear is to be expected on such a low budget, small film that probably wasn't preserved under the best conditions. As is the case with little HK films, one has to be forgiving.
Sound- Cantonese or Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0. Sound is fine, audible, but not very dynamic or full bodied. Burned in white English subtitles have a few translation mistakes and bits where they disappear in the whiteness, but fairly easy to read.
Extras- 8 Chapters--- Weblink--- Trailers for Shaolin Temple, Kids from Shaolin, Born to Defense, Deadend Besiegers and Heroes Among Heroes.
Conclusion: It is an entertaining enough HK curiosity. I recommend it for at least a rental or cheap purchase, but the film and especially the transfer aren't high grade enough for me to suggest rushing out and buying it.