The idea behind Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is a good, if not entirely original one. Director-writer-star Steve Oedekerk took an old kung-fu flick (Tiger and Crane Fist) and inserted himself into the footage, as well as overdubbing all the dialog, to create a completely new story and an incredibly silly new universe. Woody Allen tried something similar (with just the dubbing) in What's Up, Tiger Lilly? and other movies have tread similar ground. What makes Oedekerk's film stand out, however, is the obvious love for the original material that he has and the completely insane sense of lunacy that he brings to much of the film.
In a way, Kung Pow! reminded me of a Conan O'Brien joke: It's funny at first, but then Conan works it for too long and it becomes unfunny. Then, however, Conan drives it so far into the ground that it actually resurfaces and the sheer obnoxiousness of it becomes incredibly funny all over again. The opening scene of Kung Pow! serves only to set up the plot and the jokes are mostly weak. However, the last moments of the opening hint at the madness to come. The next 25 minutes or so are some of the funniest comedy I've ever seen, which caused much belly-holding, floor-slapping laughter. Then it all gets old for a while and there's a good half-hour of boredom (including the much-ballyhooed fight with a cow, a bad idea that doesn't work). The final half, however, regains many of the qualities that made the first sequences so good.
The Chosen One (or just "Chosen"), played by Oedekerk, is a typical wandering hero looking to avenge the deaths of his family. After walking (and occasionally driving) through the vast expanses of ancient China, Chosen meets Master Tung, a character from Tiger and Crane Fist), who is given some extremely funny dialog. Tang warns Chosen about the sinister Council and their evil minion Master Pain, who soon gives himself a new name (I won't spoil that one for you). Tung and Pain, along with Tung's student Wimp Lo and Chosen's "shy" love interest Ling, are absolutely great characters. The best scenes in the movie are the ones that feature them, dubbed in ridiculous fashion by Oedekerk, interacting with Chosen. Each is a knowing play on a chopsocky stereotype (the wise, old teach; the powerful, vengeful enemy; the ill-trained, jealous rival student; the demure, sad girl) and the way Oedekerk works with them is just perfect.
By spoofing the sounds and charisma of Bruce Lee, the acrobatics of Jackie Chan, the eye-gouging toughness of Sonny Chiba, plus a whole world of unsung Kung Fu stars, Oedekerk has actually crafted a very loving ode to the genre. With a few pokes, of course, as well.
There are also a couple of other special audio tracks. One includes the actual pre-dubbed dialog of all the actors. So, for the Hong Kong footage you get the original scratchy Chinese track while for the new footage you get to hear Oedekerk and his fellow actors talking about pastries and other nonsense. The other extra audio track is the "book-on-tape' track," which consists of a guy with a stuffy British accent reading all of the film's dialog. That makes a total of six different soundtracks on the disc, each one with its own set of guilty pleasures.
There are also a ton of extra scenes, alternate dialog cuts, behind-the-scenes clips, and featurettes. Plus a couple of silly Easter eggs and very funny animated menus make this a honkin' good disc.
Email Gil Jawetz at [email protected]