Written and Directed by Steve Oedekerk
Starring Steve Oedekerk, Jennifer Tung, and Leo Lee
- Running audio commentary by director Oedekerk
- Two alternate audio tracks: original Tiger & Crane Fists audio and “Book-on-Tape” version
- Six alternate takes and fourteen deleted scenes
- Visual effects before-and-after comparisons
- Cow animatic
- “Making of” featurette
- Trailer and promo spots
Released by: 20th Century Fox
My Advice: Sic Sonny Chiba on Steve Oedekerk for this abomination.
This movie blows. There, I’ve said it. No dancing around the issue, no lead-in. Just a verdict, and it ain’t pretty. Now, that said, it’s a real shame that Kung Pow! is terrible. It combines two things that have frequently led to comic genius in previous movies: a spoof of a beloved cheesy classic film style and an alumnus of TV’s In Living Color. Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey, Keenan Ivory Wayans (on his better projects)…all have had some success in the field of comedic film-making (some more than others, obviously). And there’s been a slew of great spoofs: Top Secret!, Austin Powers, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (which added an ILC cast member to the mix, to boot).
So when you put an ILC vet on a project spoofing kung-fu theatre, you’d expect the potential for quality ha-ha to be pretty high. Alas, this is not the case. In part, I think Oedekerk is the weak link…he lacks the punch of some of the comics that he wrote for on his television gig. His filmography is questionable at best, laughable at worst, covering the much-overrated “Thumb” parodies, two Nutty Professor flicks, and the weak sequel in the Ace Ventura series. His best work to date is probably Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. Kung Pow! fundamentally fails as a spoof. Rather than following the formula of successful spoofs, it branches out and tries to be funnier than spoofs usually are, and the results are disastrous. See, a quality spoof should tweak the formulaic elements of the genre in question in order to render them more amusing…to, in a sense, mock them lightheartedly. Instead, Oedekerk slaps a successive series of nonsense and sight gags–combined with the occasional bit of scatological humor–on the screen, and then expects it to fly. And at least according to the commentary track, he thinks he succeeded. Here is where we hang our heads sadly and hope for the speedy recovery of Mr. Oedekerk’s sanity.
There are moments where the film sticks to what spoofs do best (namely, spoofing their subject matter), and in those moments, it does okay. The fight sequence during the credits in which the Chosen One (Oedekerk) punches a perfectly cylindrical plug out of the center of his opponent’s body is a brilliant send-up of the kung-fu theatre convention of decapitating people with karate chops or kicking limbs off of bodies. A solid element of parody. Alas, it stands almost alone in the film, and occurs in the opening of the film, after which things are never quite worthwhile again. The gags throughout the flick are universally clunkers. From Oedekerk’s talking tongue to a fight scene with a cow to the bizarre plot twist of Francophone aliens in pyramid-shaped spaceships, none of it is nearly as funny as Oedekerk seems to think. The added sound effects to give one of the bad guys the sound of a dog’s chew toy when he walked…that’s marginally funny. And the fact that the evil dread overlord insists that everyone call him Betty. Actually funny. The rest of it…not so much.
The people to feel for in this production are the other characters. Since Oedekerk acquired the rights to use an old kung-fu flick and digitally inserted himself and his bad ideas into it, none of the secondary players had a chance to opt out. They never got to look at the script and scratch their heads in dumbfounded amazement at the sheer ridiculousness of it. And they never got to call their agents up and say “Keep me the hell away from that project. You’ll ruin my career.” Of course, they were already actors in a late 70’s kung-fu flick, so I’m guessing none of them continued on to greatness in the business. But still, they deserved a chance to not be in this movie.
In a truly bizarre twist of fate, this stinker of a film has one of the best DVD treatments I’ve ever seen. The Book-on-Tape audio is even pretty funny. There’s nothing to make clear why any of the deleted scenes were cut and the crappy scenes throughout the film remained. And the making-of stuff is kind of neat, as it had to be difficult to insert a few modern actors into a movie nearly three decades old. But it all seems such a waste to throw good money after bad on the DVD of a movie that stank up the room.
Don’t share the fate of those poor original actors…stay away from this film. Nothing should be done that could be misconstrued as encouragement for these people to strike again.
Buy it from Amazon. (but don’t say you weren’t warned)