Starring: Stephen Chow, Zhao Wei, Ng Man-tat
Director: Stephen Chow
Running Time: 87 mins
Shaolin Soccer is a Hong Kong film about a former football superstar who teams up with a former Shaolin monk to form a team of kung fu masters who will use their talents to win a million-dollar tournament.
I don’t really know what I just watched. On one level, Shaolin Soccer is an absolute laugh, showcasing mad comedy and action that bear absolutely no resemblance to either the rules of football or even physics, but on another, it’s so stupid and dumb that it’s not actually that entertaining at all, and sometimes just feels like some guys got together to shout and scream at a camera for 87 minutes with no story of any sort.
And that’s where the dilemma with this movie comes in. Obviously, it’s meant to be utterly ridiculous. In truth, nothing makes any sort of sense here, and it’s rather meant to be an hour and a half of purely bizarre events that have some bearing to a story of some sort, but is basically meant to confuse you to the point where you can only laugh.
That works to a degree, but not flawlessly. I will say that I had good fun with Shaolin Soccer. It’s ridiculous, stupid, and doesn’t make any sense, but its clearly fun-loving nature combined with a fantastically mad directing style from Stephen Chow, one that allows for awful CGI to somehow make its way into the film and bend physics to an even greater degree than the actors are with their kung fu, means that you can laugh along with the madness from start to finish.
The problem with that is that things do get a little repetitive after a while, particularly when there’s no real plot beneath to keep you interested. There’s the typical sports story of underdogs competing in a big tournament, and there’s also a side romance that doesn’t really make much sense at all, but apart from that, there’s very little to grab onto here, which left me a little bored about halfway through the movie when the novelty of the ridiculousness had eventually worn off.
Now, the actors do a great job at being mad and loud throughout. The kung fu looks pretty good and pretty convincing, and although nobody on screen has any degree of footballing talent whatsoever, they manage to kick the ball around enough to make the sporting side of the story moderately entertaining as well.
Overall, it’s pretty hard to judge Shaolin Soccer on normal criteria. It’s an entertaining film, and I think it definitely achieves its objective of bewildering you to the point where you can’t help but laugh, but it’s not a bulletproof comedy, and its humour wears thin quicker that expected, making for moments of dullness amidst total and utter madness, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.