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With tons of action, eye-popping special effects, and nonstop laughs, here's a hilarious martial arts comedy about a team of misfits who take their best shot at winning a championship! Sing is a skilled Shaolin kung fu devotee whose amazing "leg of steel" catches the eye of a soccer coach! Together they assemble a squad of Sing's former Shaolin brothers inspired by the big-money prize in a national soccer competition! Using an unlikely mix of martial arts and newfound soccer skills, it seems an unbeatable combination ... until they must face the dreaded Team Evil in the ultimate battle for the title!
- Includes both 112 original version and 89 minute English-Dubbed US version
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Shaolin Soccer is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's almost like a "so good it's bad" film, except instead it's "so weird it's funny", yet well-orchestrated and heartwarming at the same time. Not very often does a film manage to hit all these points at the same time, and do it well. Shaolin Soccer executes all this perfectly. The special effects are also well-executed, and even though they're ridiculously over-the-top, they manage to fit in very well with the rest of the film's action and visual themes. Nothing "wow!"-inspiring, but that's hardly necessary in a film like this. It's no Hollywood blockbuster, but it doesn't need to be.
The plot is well done also. It's nothing special, but the beats and intentional corniness match perfectly. The story doesn't draw attention to itself by being too big or too small, but manages to fit in with the film as a whole and make things feel cohesive. A real shame that Michael Bay couldn't do the same for Transformers.
Stephen Chow borrows from Jackie Chan's schtick and improves on it, infusing SHAOLIN SOCCER with broad humor, dazzling martial arts, and even a wacky musical number. It's huge fun, and unlike Jackie's habit of exhibiting clownish expressions, Stephen consistently maintains a deadpan demeanor which I think makes his comedy more effective. Stephen Chow plays "Mighty Steel Leg" Sing, a scruffy cleaner and post-graduate student whose ambition is to make Shaolin kung fu accessible to the masses. And he regards the game of soccer as the means to achieving this. Under the tutelage of disgraced ex-soccer star Fung a.k.a. "Golden Leg," Mighty Steel Leg and his reunited motley band of fellow Shaolin Temple alums parlay their kung fu training onto the soccer field. And while the film takes its sweet time to get these reluctant players on the field, once they do, it generates this exhilarating momentum. You can take or leave Chow's patented cinematic ticks but there's no denying the masterful visual effects that come into play. We get treated to some wildly spectacular sight gags.
The story takes time to introduce its characters and their sordidness, and this lends a rooting interest for the viewer. Ultimately, it's Fung who provides the film's emotional anchor, with Stephen Chow wrangling the most showy role. But the most endearing character, for my money, is the unsvelte Iron Head, played by Wong Yat Fei, an actor who has a way with physical comedy. Vicki Zhao plays the sympathetic role of Mui, the painfully shy girl whose bakery-fu is most excellent and whose tai chi goalie skills are, as we learn, very formidable. But Mui's delectable steam buns are what inspire a musical number.
As Mighty Steel Leg goes about recruiting his Shaolin brothers, it's readily apparent that these slovenly blokes have neglected their kung fu. So cue the amusing training montages, all this to prep the team to cut a swath thru national soccer competition and on to a championship showdown with the dreaded Team Evil, a crew what had won the Super Cup five years running and is fueled by (if you're watching the original Chinese version) "evil American drugs."
If you haven't seen SHAOLIN SOCCER or KUNG FU HUSTLE, you're in for something you've never seen before, something bordering on the surreal. Stephen Chow specializes in offbeat martial arts flights of fancy. I love the little touches he injects, from the goalie (not Mui) clad in the classic yellow Bruce Lee track suit to that little bit that Mui does as the musical number abruptly ends to Mui's hilarious fail which has her reporting to the other team's goal post, to the shame of her teammates. This DVD allows for the option to see the film either in its American version or in the original Chinese version. Except you should see it in the original Chinese version which has a running time of 112 minutes as opposed to the severely edited 87 minutes long American version. The American version is also minus the closing outtakes.
Basic plot: Former soccer champ, poor and disdained, discovers a guy with real potential. From there they form a team and try to win a championship and achieve fame and glory.
But describing the basic plot is like trying to describe the color "blue" to someone who can't see colors. It is the subtleties, humor and just plain weirdness of this one that make it a standout! Don't expect realism but a blend of fantasy and wish fulfillment...and, oh yes, soccer like it has NEVER been played before.
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