Sunday, January 07, 2007

SHAOLIN SOCCER


Comedy of the week:
SHAOLIN SOCCER

There was a time, not too long ago, when I got all my movies from the local video rental store in my town. And even now that I've found alternative sources (e.g. Netflix, local library, etc.), I still regularly check in there for immediate gratification. I usually don’t get there on weekdays until evenings after work (7 PM or later). Now, as most of you know, when you get there that late, it’s slim pickin’s. What’re left on the ‘new release’ shelves are movies that nobody wants or (and this is vital) nobody’s heard of. When people ask me where I find these movies that they’ve never heard of – this is where it started.

I can still remember the evening when I went down to the video store looking for – I can’t remember what – and ended picking up SHAOLIN SOCCER. I remember reading the little blurb on the back of the box and thinking, “I’m probably going to end up watching this by myself. It sounds really whacky, and I’m the only one willing to sit through something like this.” I indeed watched it myself, and when I got to the end, I immediately realized that I was wrong. There isn’t anybody whom this movie wouldn’t appeal to. Since then I’ve been showing this film to everybody I can, and so far, no negative reviews. After all, who wouldn’t warm up to an insane goofy martial arts sports comedy?

If you think about all the sports movies that you've ever seen, you can probably count the good ones with the fingers of one hand - a shop teacher's hand. Why is that? It’s because they’re all the same story. A bunch of losers come from behind to rally together to make the team succeed. They make it all the way to the championship game, where they come up against their greatest rivals. It all comes down to the final few seconds where they finally pull it off and win. Cue the crowd, everybody goes wild. The end.

“So, Frank, here’s where you tell us that SHAOLIN SOCCER has a very different and unique story line.” Sorry, SHAOLIN SOCCER is exactly the same story – overall. A bunch of losers come from behind to rally together to make the team succeed. They make it all the way to the championship game, where they come up against their greatest rivals. It all comes down to the final few seconds. However, it’s the details that are unique. This is a film that, if you read the synopsis, you might decide that it's just too strange or unusual or silly to watch. But, what the hell?

Here is a family film, so filled to the brim with insane goofiness that you'll immediately want to see it again. A group of former students of a Shaolin temple, unsure about what to do with their lives, decide to reunite to form a soccer team, using their kung-fu training to good advantage. Their coach is a former soccer legend, known as “Golden Leg”. All progresses well – but Golden Leg’s former rival is training a super kung-fu soccer team of his own (called – “Team Evil” of all things). They all meet in the championship game for the final confrontation. Cue the crowd, everybody goes wild.

I understand that originally, there were no plans to release this film in the USA. However, through word of mouth and numerous downloads, the movie attained cult status and so the distributors rushed to correct their mistake.

Here’s some reasons why you may want to see this movie.

  1. This was the most successful Hong Kong-made movie ever in Hong Kong.
  2. It’s a spectacular epic story, with spectacular special effects, and spectacular choreography, coupled with a warm and funny narrative.
  3. Not only is it suitable for the entire family, you will want the family to see it.
  4. It’s in Chinese with sub-titles in various languages. Moreover, the DVD released in the US features an English language soundtrack – meaning you can watch it without subtitles.
  5. One of the charms of the great martial arts movies is the abundance of totally outrageous moves and stunts that defy gravity – and several of the other laws of physics. That also contributes to the charm of this film.
  6. If this film took itself seriously for one instant, it would fall flat and look silly. It doesn’t – not even for an instant.
  7. If you take all your favorite martial arts movie stars: Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Yun-Fat Chow, and maybe Tony Leung Chiu Wai (not so much a kung-fu movie star as he is a great movie star – besides, he was just so good in Infernal Affairs), and then maybe throw in Uma Thurman from Kill Bill. Then get them all hopped up on laughing gas, then you’ll get the idea of the scope of this movie.
  8. The tern “lunatics” will come to mind, I am sure.
  9. They say that laughter is the best medicine. Watch this film before you need a prescription to rent it.
  10. Despite what I said above about it following the old worn-out plot formula, this film is completely original.

Usually, once the end credits roll, that’s a cue to stop the tape or disc (I, myself, am often guilty of this). Watch the credits at the end of the movie. There are some clips that play through the credits that are very funny – they are meant to mirror the opening scene, but with some differences. As I mentioned, this is one funny funny movie. Rent it and watch it with your whole family.

Enjoy.

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