Eric D. Snider

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

Movie Review

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: F

Released: January 25, 2002

 

Directed by:

Cast:

"Kung Pow: Enter the Fist" has a marvelous premise but fails completely due to some fundamental misunderstandings of the ways of comedy.

The idea is that Steve Oedekerk got a hold of a long-forgotten 1976 martial-arts film called "Tiger & Crane Fists." He redubbed the dialogue, shot some new scenes, and digitally inserted himself into the action, thus creating a movie that is a parody of karate flicks in general, and a "Mystery Science Theater"-style mocking of this one specifically.

The problem is that I only know all this because I read the press kit. The movie itself does not make it clear, and how is the audience supposed to laugh along with your concept if it doesn't know what the concept is?

Yes, the movie begins with a title card telling us that "Tiger & Crane Fists" has been given new voices and soundtrack. But then the very first scene has a CGI baby kung fu fighting two bad guys -- a scene that obviously has been made from scratch, not rescued from a cellar and redubbed. Our assumption, then, is that they were kidding about the "new voices and soundtrack" thing, and that they've made an all-new movie -- intentionally bad -- and put in silly dialogue.

But then we have scenes that really DO look old, and where the dubbed dialogue makes fun of the action. For example, a man's robe keeps changing colors from one shot to the next, and the dubbed voice of the man speaking to him makes reference to it. Are they making fun of an actual old movie? If so, funny. Or did they make a new movie and make it bad on purpose so they could make fun of it? If so, not funny, because they're setting up straw men just so they can knock them down. Not knowing which is the case, the audience is left to puzzle things out and determine whether this is good comedy or bad comedy.

The audience has to understand the premise. It's OK to lie to the audience, but it has to be clear that you're lying. Conan O'Brien has a feature where he shows us "actual ads" from actual newspapers. He insists these are real advertisements, and that you couldn't make this stuff up. And then it's obvious from the first example that they ARE made up, and that one of the things he's mocking is the late-night talk-show staple of showing humorous newspaper clippings (like Jay Leno's "Headlines").

"Kung Pow" begins by telling us it's an old movie redubbed, but then includes obviously new scenes seamlessly integrated with the old ones. They've done such an ingenious job of putting new footage with old that they've undermined their own comedy.

And then there's another problem: The redubbed dialogue isn't very funny. There are moments, yes -- the aforementioned robe-changing bit is good, assuming you catch on that this really IS an old scene -- but there are far more instances of strained, wimpy humor. Having the mouths out of sync with the words is funny ... but not forever. Giving the characters silly voices is funny ... but not forever. Nearly every joke goes beyond the realm of humor and into the realm of being over-done. It's the perfect example of a movie that should have been 15 minutes long.

Steve Oedekerk wrote "Patch Adams," for which he should not be forgiven. Why he was given free reign over this project -- he wrote, directed, starred and produced -- is beyond me. With some more brains involved, it could have turned into a wonderful, wacky movie. Someone should have been there to tell Steve he was completely screwing it up.

Grade: F

Rated PG-13, mild profanity, a lot of comic blood

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Notes:

In 2011, I reconsidered this movie for my "Re-Views" column at Film.com.

This item has 8 comments

  1. mike says:

    id just like to say that kung pow is a fantastic film that only stupid people wouldn't understand

  2. John Doe says:

    Wow, brilliant retort. I can tell from the strength of your argument and your skills at spelling you must be about 6. Shame on your parents for letting you navigate the net without their supervision.

  3. Jason Wright says:

    I don't see how someone could make the claim that only stupid people wouldn't understand this movie. This movie was stupid enough that anyone could understand it without even thinking about it. That being said, I loved the movie.

  4. Angelo says:

    what is the song called when he is training?

  5. Nick says:

    Actually, I have to disagree with this one. I think that this movie was actually brilliant at times. It's pretty easy to tell which scenes are from the actual movie and which aren't, but anyone who tried to analyze things like that probably is going to miss the (admittadly dumb) humor. This is truly a movie for those who have stayed up way too late but can't sleep, those who actually think that post-modernism, when done correctly, but actually be really funny (and I do - my favorite comedian is Neil Hamburger). Don't get me wrong - this is a bad movie. Which is obviously very intentional. But it's the terrible quality of the writing that really makes this funny - the lines seem to be more or less made up on the spot. The film's greatest moments are those that mock the original, which I doubt anyone has really seen, but it's a great look back on how cheap and stupid these movies can be. Okay, so even in it's absurdness and intentional badness it's far from perfect - all the CGI effects were kind of stupid, the Lion King reference was meaningless and unfunny, as were the aliens I guess (but I guess it was kind of a final way of pissing off the people who didn't enjoy the movie as it launched the movie into such ridiculous heights of absurdity that it barely qualifies as a movie anymore).

    So I'd say like a B-. I laughed my [butt] off the first time or two I saw this, and no matter how much you can nitpick, that's worth something, isn't it?

  6. John Doe says:

    I must add my opinion, now that I've seen this movie, that this film is hilarious. I don't know what that says about me, and I don't know how funny it will be on subsequent viewings, but I haven't laughed so long and hard in a long time. It wasn't a masterpiece and some of the humor was lost on me, but there were hilarious parts. I'd recommend it to every one of my friends.

  7. leanne says:

    umm wow im watching this movie right now and its not even bad! it hilarious. you dunno what your talking about!

  8. susah says:

    You're review of this hilarious film makes me wonder what other films I've missed because of you're bad rating of it!!

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