Director/Screenplay – Steve Oedekerk, Producers – Steve Oedekerk, Tom Koranda & Paul Marshal, Photography – John J. Connor, Music – Robert Folk, Music Supervisors – Jeff Carson & Frankie Pine, Visual Effects Supervisor – Chris Watts, Visual Effects – The Chandler Group, Cinesite, Dubbed Voices, O Digital (Supervisor – Dave Merrell) & Steamboat Software Inc, Digital Restoration – Revival Digital, Prosthetic Effects – Andrew Clement, Production Design – Sean Mannion & Hector Velez. Production Company – O Entertainment.
Steve Oedekerk (The Chosen One), Tse Ling Ling (Ling), Lung Fair (Master Pain/Betty), Chen Hui Lo (Master Tang), Lau Kar Wing (Wimp Lo), Jennifer Tung (Whoa)
The warlord Master Pain kills the parents of the infant Chosen One, although the baby itself escapes after defeating Master Pain’s men in a display of martial arts. Growing into adulthood, The Chosen One trains in the school of Master Tang and comes to realise his destiny is to defeat Master Pain who now calls himself Betty.
The way Kung Pow: Enter the Fist was pitched it seemed like it offered a witty parody of the martial arts moves that became a fad after the successes of The Matrix (1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). The thirty second tv trailer made Kung Pow look like an Airplane/Naked Gun/Hot Shots!-styled take on The Matrix and Crouching Tiger. A parody of the cycle is one that is never more than welcome at that point with every other film from Scary Movie (2000) to Shrek (2001) and Cats & Dogs (2001) featuring Matrix/Crouching Tiger in-jokes and every film from Charlie’s Angels (2000) to The One (2001) and Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) copying their moves.
Alas, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist emerges as a case of promotion far outweighing delivery. In fact, the trailer is a marvel of promotional spin in giving a product a trendy, audience-grabbing hook that quite belies the film on show. For, what we in fact have is not even a new film, it is just a reissue of an older Hong Kong martial arts film, Tiger and Crane Fists/Savage Killers (1976) with one-liners dubbed-over a la the likes of Woody Allen’s What’s Up Tiger Lily? (1965), Hercules Returns (1993) and tv’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-99, 2017-8).
Actually, what Kung Pow: Enter the Fist comes closest to is the Steve Martin vehicle Dead Man Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) in that the filmmakers have not just laid over a gag track but gone to elaborate lengths – the employment of half-a-dozen digital effects houses – to shoot new blue screen footage and wind a new story in, around and over the top of the original. They have even gone to the extent of tinting the modern footage to match the faded colour stock of cheap 1970s colour photography. In fact, it is frequently difficult to tell what is new and what is original footage.
That said the resulting film on display is utterly witless. The director/writer/star is Steve Oedekerk who previously wrote the likes of the Nutty Professor films, Patch Adams (1998), Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius (2001) and the subsequent Bruce Almighty (2003), Evan Almighty (2007) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and had directed Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995) and a series of spoof shorts that reenact popular movies with thumbs. Often Steve Oedekerk gets the style of the Zucker Brothers, who directed the aforementioned Airplane and Naked Gun spoofs, down right with gags and visual inanity playing on martial arts movie cliches. Kung Pow‘s one amusing gag is a parody of Matrix mid-air martial arts spins and Bullet Time effects with Oedekerk battling a cow that squirts milk at him in slow-motion.
Mostly though, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is staggeringly unfunny. Steve Oedekerk, like most current mainstream comedy directors, gets distracted by a schoolboyish preoccupation with farts, breasts and kicks in the crotch jokes. He dubs all the voices himself and seems to think the height of humour is having people saying dumb things in funny voices. The gag with the heroine who squeaks “wee-ooo, wee-ooo, wee-ooo” whenever she appears just goes on and on and on to the point one wants to scream at Oedekerk to shut up. There is no plot to the affair, just a series of shapeless and aimless gags pitched at the lowest common denominator. One can honestly say that Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is quite the worst film they have seen in multiplex release in some time.
Seve Oedekerk subsequently went onto direct the animated Barnyard (2006) and has for some time promised to deliver a sequel to Kung Pow.
(Winner Worst Film in this site’s Worst Films of 2002 list).