Dir: Steve Oedekerk. US. 2002. 80 mins.
Kung Pow: Enter The Fist is a late-night college joke done on a Hollywood budget. Masterminded by writer-director Steve Oedekerk (whose credits include Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Nutty Professor and Patch Adams), the film takes an obscure 1970s Hong Kong karate flick (Savage Killers, aka Tiger and Crane Fist), re-dubs it, digitally inserts Oedekerk into the action and adds specially shot new material to create a spoof of the mystical martial arts genre. The result is determinedly daffy and occasionally funny; but there's nothing like enough decent comic material to fill out even the meagre 80-minute running time. Heavy TV advertising might have bought the film a modest US theatrical opening - it took $7,017,474 from 2,478 theatres -but Kung Pow's only real prospects are as a novelty item for late-night college viewing in the home video marketplace. International interest is likely to be negligible.
Judging by the material Oedekerk retains, Savage Killers was always ripe for mockery. The action turns around the usual martial artist hero, his wise mentor (known in the Oedekerk version as Master Tang), his nemesis (Master Pain, or 'Betty', to Oedekerk) and a delicate lotus of a love interest. Cheesy special effects introduce an army of aliens in pyramid-shaped space ships to back up the scowling Master Pain. Oedekerk himself - or in some cases his head, digitally added to the original hero's body - appears as The Chosen One, a wandering martial arts expert whose special mark is a tongue with eyes and a mouth of its own (something similar to the thumb 'characters' that have appeared elsewhere in Oedekerk's work).
Most of the film's funniest moments come from the simple re-dubbing of the original version's dialogue. The new dialogue doesn't display the kind of wit that made Woody Allen's sixties re-dubbing exercise What's Up, Tiger Lily' a cult classic, but Oedekerk (who appears to have done all the dubbing himself) does have a way with silly voices that produces the odd laugh.
The film's new material is much less fun. The set pieces in the specially shot footage include a fight between The Chosen One and a milk-laden cow (an excuse for the latest comic take on The Matrix) and a numbingly unfunny scene with Whoa (Tung), a mysterious female martial artist with one giant breast. The whole exercise might have been partially redeemed by a little discipline from an outside influence. As it is, however, Oedekerk is free to pursue his every comic whim and the result is a hopelessly uneven, self-indulgent mess.
Prod co: O Entertainment
US dist: 20th century Fox
Int dist: 20th century Fox
Prods: Paul Marshal, Tom Koranda, Steve Oedekerk
Cienmatography: John J Connor
Prod des: Hector Velez
Ed: Paul Marshal
Music: Robert Folk
Main cast: Steve Oedekerk, Jennifer Tung, Leo Lee