"Kung Pow: Enter the Fist," written, directed and starring Steve Oedekerk (1995's "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls"), may not be a completely successful spoof of the martial arts genre, but it is spirited and has several big laughs. Reminiscent of TV's dearly departed "Mystery Science Theater 3000," Oedekerk has cleverly taken the obscure 1976 kung fu picture, "Savage Killers," and dubbed the original dialogue with his own comically insane screenplay. What's more, he has digitally inserted himself and a few other actors into the source material and included several added scenes to create the wackiest movie you are likely to see this year.
The story is superfluous and unimportant. Oedekerk has forgone a clearly defined plot as a means for setting up a line of loosely related skits that drive the laugh quotient. What we do learn is that The Chosen One (Steve Oedekerk), as he is called, saw his parents slain as a baby at the hands of Master Pain, also known as Betty (Lung Fai). After being raised by rodents, the adult Chosen One sets out to avenge his parents by going up against the sniveling Betty, all the while falling in love with the pretty, whiny Ling (Tse Ling Ling).
The opening five minutes of "Kung Pow: Enter the Fist" are thankfully its worst. After the misguided, even painfully unfunny and underlit, beginning setpiece in which the infant Chosen One attacks his parents' killers, the film gradually finds its footing. The peculiar idea of redubbing and digitally changing an older movie takes some getting used to, but once you get into the groove of things, a parade of surprisingly funny moments arrive.
The squealing, daffy Ling (played by Tse Ling Ling in the 1976 film, and redubbed by Oedekerk himself) is easily the most entertaining and wacky character, and whenever she is onscreen, the film is hilarious. A new sequence, in which The Chosen One goes up against a kung fu cow, is another inspired bit of lunacy, but this umpteenth lampooning of 1999's "The Matrix" is a lazy one.
Steve Oedekerk deserves major credit for taking on such an oddball project and, for the most part, making it work. At 82 minutes, "Kung Pow: Enter the Fist" does not wear out its welcome like most spoofs do, but it also fails to achieve anything other than being "kind of funny, but very stupid." As is the case with the genre, the ratio of hits to misses on the laugh meter favor the latter, but there are enough good jokes to make it an enjoyable, if unproductive, time at the movies.
©2002 by Dustin Putman