Film: Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002)
Written by, Starring, and Directed by: Steve Oedekerk
The great (and frustrating) thing about this sendup of martial arts cinema is that it’s actually two movies in one. The first style drowns in CG, offering ham-fisted renditions of a murderous cow, a kung fu baby, and a tongue which has its own tongue. Oh, and there’s a lady ninja with one boob right in the center of her chest, which is kind of unsettling.
The second aspect of Kung Pow! is much more interesting, involving the restoration and appropriation of an old Hong Kong martial arts flick known as Tiger and Crane Fist. Director and star Steve Oedekerk warped and cut this classic into all that modern footage, making a new tale of a Chosen One (that’s his name) out of the old video.
What’s weird is the contrast in restraint between the film’s two styles. While Oedekerks’ original footage looks rather lame and brash in its technophilia, the subtle way he inserts his face onto the hero of Tiger and Crane Fist is very well executed. On first look, one might miss some of the Easter eggs planted into the old footage, such as a Hooters storefront and a crap music aficionado who gyrates to the anachronistic tunes coming from the ghetto blaster on his shoulder.
The thing that really sells Kung Pow!, however, is Oedekerk’s use of dialogue. With the exception of Titty-Cyclops, every character in the film was voiced by the director. The film becomes something of a Mystery Science Theatre episode, with Oedekerk’s brilliantly silly lines encompassing almost all of the film’s hilarity. A conversation between Chosen One and his sexually demented sensei, which was probably a routine bit of scenework in Tiger and Crane Fist, becomes wholly absurd in the best way. Likewise, any scene featuring the dastardly Master Betty (the villain formerly known as Master Pain), is rendered brilliant due to Oedekerk’s revoicing the brutal gang leader as an adorably creepy dweeb. Master Betty is the best.
If Kung Pow! has one point to make, it is that dialogue and context in film are at least as important as the visuals. If you can get past all those crappy 21st Century visuals in this film, it can be quite a joyous little parody, on par with the Fistful of Yen chapter of Kentucky Fried Movie.
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