Though Jody and I own the DVD of this Stephen Chow film in all 111 mins. of its glory, Shaolin Soccer is being released as an 88 minute subtitled affair this week.
I rate this film (the DVD version) as THREE STARS.
The story is an odd mix of Rocky style sports heroics and shaolin monk movie tropes.
The film begins with its hero in abject poverty looking for a way to bring Shaolin Kung Fu into the modern world. He knows that anyone, in any walk of life, can benefit from Shaolin Training. Alas, the world has left tradition behind and scoffs at this valued institution. His solution? Show off the skills of Shaolin by creating the best soccer team in the world, made up (of course) of masters of the martial arts.
Our hero teams up with the former "Golden Leg," a one time soccer idol. A fallen idol though. He sold out his skill for money, only to find that he was to lose everything. One failing with regard to honor destroys his life. The check was a fraud, he loses his ability to play soccer, and worst of all he loses his honor. The loss of honor is pounded into the audiences head in this film as this character is subjected to humiliation after humiliation. Can our hero redeem the "golden leg" and show the world the beauty of Shaolin?
WATCH THE MOVIE.
This film has some interesting moral commentary within it. More than just the honor themes, the attack on "chemical enhancement" (which takes on a kind of demonic theme), and the value of tradition, this film comments on the value of inner beauty. There is a kind of "ugly duckling" b-story romantic interest in the film as well. This involves Wing Chun kung fu.
All in all this is a fun film. I only hope that American audiences respond well.