Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The auteur took a Hong Kong martial arts movie, 1977's Tiger and Crane Fist (aka Savage Killers), and redubbed it, inserting a new (European-looking) hero digitally, adding some other digital effects, and even adding some new footage, the oddest of which features a martial arts battle between a man and a dairy cow. In essence, it is like MST3000, except imagine what that show would be like if Mike and the bots were actually in the film when they make their comments. It was a reasonably fresh idea, and it has some good moments, but it has a lot of dull, lowbrow slapstick as well, in moments when the running time is filled out by silly noises, funny faces, and brainless insults. The cow scene, for example, goes on way too long, despite exhausting all of the humorous possibilities in the first 20 seconds.

By the way, a very young Woody Allen did something similar to this, in a film called What's Up, Tiger Lily? He took an entire cheapie Asian movie, and simply redubbed the dialogue without changing any visuals. That came out pretty damned funny.

Unfortunately, this writer - well, I knew Woody Allen, senator, and you are no Woody Allen.

Writer/director/star Steve Oedekirk was a writer for In Living Color, and his best credit is his screenplay for The Nutty Professor, so you know he has some funny stuff inside of him. On the other hand, he also wrote a bunch of those "thumb" movies and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, so you can predict his humor will not be of a sophisticated variety.

In the beginning Master Pain, a cruel overlord, is seeking out The Chosen One, a baby who will lead to Master Pain's destruction, according to the prophets. Pain manages to kill Chosen One's (his girlfriend just calls him "Chosen") family, but the infant escapes, thanks to the gifts the gods have given him. The greatest of these gifts seems to be a second soul inside of him, which actually has a face - painted on his tongue. In their ancient wisdom, the all-knowing seers like to call this atman "tonguey". After surviving Pain's attack, the infant Chosen One rolls down a cliff where he is picked up by a woman, rejected, then thrown down another cliff, into a dump where he is eventually raised by rats.

As an adult, Chosen must learn the ways of the ancients in order to defeat Master Pain, not only for revenge, but to bring peace to his humble land. By this time, the powerful Master Pain, greatest warrior in the land, has become even crazier with power, and has decided that his subjects must all call him "Betty".



Chosen One needs to study with a master before he can challenge Betty. Another student, Wimp Lo, is kind of hacked off, because HE was hoping to be the chosen one, but the master says "ignore Wimp Lo. We intentionally trained him badly from birth, as a joke". Chosen doesn't actually follow the foolish advice of the master, but instead works out on a Bowflex machine.

Reviews were terrible, but it isn't that bad. Oh, the movie is not very good overall, but I liked a lot of the jokes. High school and college audiences might like a lot of it, and people who have actually watched some of the kung-fu movies of the 70's will probably like this a lot, because Oedekirk has a good feel for the absurdity of grade-b martial arts flicks. To me the only real problem with Kung Pow is that it runs 80 minutes with only 20 minutes worth of material, and the rest is padded with repetitive silliness. Oedekirk could have used some co-writers to punch it up and eliminate the repetition.

I do advise however, to avoid this if you are not familiar with the genre being parodied. The best jokes are too "inside" for you to catch, and the worst jokes aren't worth catching.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Lots of features. Widesceen. See comments to the right.

The DVD is remarkably thorough for a movie with a limited box office record. Here's how filmcritic.com described it:

The Kung Pow DVD takes the format to the bizarre... and beyond. In addition to a commentary track, you'll find the undubbed version of the film (what Oedekerk is actually saying underneath his own dubbing is simply nuts), as well as a "book on tape" version of the audio -- with a narrator voicing all of the (dubbed version of the) dialogue for all of the characters in a stuffy British voice. This almost makes the film worthwhile. There's also a full ton of behind-the-scenes footage, animations, effects propaganda, and the like. It goes on and on... kind of like Kung Pow itself. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: less than a star. Berardinelli 1/4, filmcritic.com 1/5

  • Metacritic.com. 12/100. This one of the lowest scores I have ever seen at Metacritic (Films in single figures include: Whipped 2/100, Battlefield Earth 3/100, Freddy Got Fingered 7/100, and Rollerball 8/100)


The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: it grossed a modest $16 million, but was produced for $10 million, so will end probably up a profit maker after all revenue sources have been tapped. On the other hand, the studio was disappointed. They expected a winner, promoted it fairly heavily, and rolled it out on 2500 screens.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a low C-. A great idea with some laughs, but not enough worthwhile material to fill up the running time, so it's only really funny if you are already familiar with the cheapo martial arts films of the 60's and 70's, or with the actual movie upon which this is based.

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