Have you ever rented a bad kung-fu movie and invited a bunch of friends over to make fun of it and throw popcorn at the TV?
Now imagine paying to sit in the back of someone else's living room and watch him do the same thing with his friends -- who aren't any funnier than yours. That's what watching "Kung Pow: Enter the Fist" feels like.
Of course, writer-director Steve Oedekerk ("Ace Ventura 2") invited all his friends to a sound studio so they could re-dub the movie using silly dialogue and silly voices that were intentionally out of sync. He also had a special effects budget, courtesy of 20th Century Fox, so he re-edited 1976's "Tiger and Crane Fists," and CGI-ed himself into the story as the "Chosen One" -- a suspiciously Caucasian, slapstick martial arts hero a bowl-cut wig.
But even with such high-tech enhancements, at the heart of this spoof is the kind of mildly amusing, haphazard creativity that just about anybody is capable of if they have a VCR, a childish attitude and enough beer.
In the picture's early scenes, when the Chosen One is a butt-kicking baby peeing on bad guys as a kung-fu tactic, cheap laughs come surprisingly easy and often. Oedekerk sticks to low-tech, lowbrow gags to begin with -- like repeating gratuitously dramatic camera zooms a dozen times or dubbing in absent-minded whistling and grunts whenever characters are on screen but have no dialogue. Even the fact that the narrator sounds like Cheech Marin back in his stoner days is good for a giggle.
As "Kung Pow" wears on, however, Oedekerk's penchant for repetition wears thin (the pouty female lead ends almost every dubbed line by whining "wee-oh, wee-oh, wee-oh" until her lips stop moving) and he begins to use his F/X budget at a crutch. If you've seen the movie's TV commercials in which Oedekerk fights "Matrix"-style with a computer-generated cow, just imagine that already-tiresome antic dragging on for four minutes.
The longer the picture runs, the more the good jokes (this 81-minute movie has an intermission!) feel like a reward for sitting through the increasingly lame ones (what is with the "yipee"-yelping animated face on Oedekerk's tongue?).
It's not that "Kung Pow" isn't funny some of the time -- it just isn't any funnier than bad martial arts movies are all by themselves, without all Oedekerk's impish augmentation.
For a more successful execution of the same concept, see Woody Allen's "What's Up, Tigerlily?" a re-dub of a Japanese spy movie that works because of Allen's far smarter sense of humor. Or for that matter, just rent any episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," in which three guys sit in a theater and smart off while watching cheesy sci-fi movies.
Run time: 81 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th January 2002
Box Office USA: $15.9M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 11%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 47
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Steve Oedekerk
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