Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Come close, grasshopper ... don't laugh at fighting cow

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ORSON WELLES once said that a movie studio was the best toy a boy could ever have.

Nowadays, the best toy is a computer, at least if the boy is a 41-year-old guy named Steve Oedekerk.

An experienced writer-director with credits on Ace Ventura movies and more recently Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Oedekerk has embraced film's high technology, not so he can use it to create other worlds, a la George Lucas, and not for the sake of expanding the language of the medium, like Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

No, Oedekerk is just looking for a good time.

Indeed, you get the sense that he is primarily amusing himself with Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. (Right off, you'll notice that when a guy inserts two different gags in the title alone, he likely knows no restraint.) The film has the home-made comedy sensibility you could achieve yourself with, say, a JPEG of Britney Spears and a Photoshop program.

Oedekerk took an actual 1976 Hong Kong kung fu movie titled Snake and Crane Fists and has used it for his own nefarious purposes here. For about half of Kung Pow, he digitally erased the original star's face and inserted his own in its place. Then, incorporating humourous dubbing, comic editing, and an infusion of new footage, complete with elaborate special effects, he has made a movie that is totally silly.

As it is, the movie is about a boy called The Chosen One, or "Chosen" for short. After an evil kung fu master who calls himself Betty wipes out his entire family, Chosen enters a martial arts school so that the instructor will teach him how to conquer the seemingly invulnerable Betty. Along the way, he romances the lovely Kewpie doll Ling (who has a post-Oedekerk-tampering tendency to flash her goodies), and makes an enemy of a whining, squeaky-shoed student called Wimp Lo, who has been "taught wrong" for fun. ("I am bleeding. I win.")

The end result is a giggle for, say, the junior high school student equally disposed to laugh at the sight of a digital, kung fu fighting cow or a fart joke. For those of us who have outgrown that, there is no small hilarity in Oedekerk's take on the cheesy '70s martial arts genre. A gag involving excessive use of a zoom lens is enough to induce a personal flashback to seeing Five Fingers of Death at the Metropolitan some 25 years ago.

Come to think of it, we laughed then, too.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2002 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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