Kung Pow: Enter The Fist

In 1966, filmmaker Woody Allen released “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” Originally a dreadful Japanese spy thriller released to take advantage of the James Bond phenomenon, Allen re-edited and re-dubbed the film to turn it into a satirical comedy sending up the genre.

In 1984, long before “Forrest Gump,” filmmaker Woody Allen magically inserted his chameleon- like character “Zelig” into old film footage, sharing screen space with Babe Ruth and Adolf Hitler.

In 2002, filmmaker Steve Oedekerk, taking his cue from Allen, gives us “Kung Pow: Enter The Fist,” an extremely unfunny comedy that began as a Kung Fu film but ended up as a poo poo platter. Like Allen, Oedekerk has reassembled and inserted himself into another film, but unlike Allen, the results are a case of too little too late.

Does the world really need a Kung Fu spoof, especially so late in the game? Especially when the ultimate spoof, “A Fistful of Yen” from “Kentucky Fried Movie,” has already been done? “Kung Pow” reminded me of a student film where the filmmakers didn’t know better. Oedekerk, whose string of hits behind the camera include “Patch Adams,” “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” and “The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps,” obviously knows better. Or does he?

“Kung Pow” would have made a great party reel, something stupid you show your friends when they’re so drunk they’ll laugh at anything. As feature-length entertainment, it seems overdone and overlong. Oedekerk never knows when enough is enough, perhaps hoping that with enough ammunition he’ll eventually hit a target.

Indeed, the humor Oedekerk in “Kung Pow” is scattershot. Whether it be Kung Fu cows who use milk as a weapon, or a female character with one giant breast, Oedekerk tries too hard. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s spoofing a genre that in itself is already funny. Can anyone watch Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” without a smile on their face? By making fun of something that is already inherently funny, Oedekerk falls flat on his face.

Not only does Oedekerk rely on bad dubbing for a laugh, he forces the characters to speak in funny voices. Hey, if bad dubbing is supposed to be funny, then bad dubbing with a funny voice makes it twice as funny, right? If Oedekerk thinks any of this is clever, he really needs a vacation.

The plot of “Kung Pow” is as anemic as the laughs. Oedekerk plays The Chosen One, a martial arts expert who was raised by rodents after his parents were killed. As an adult, The Chosen One sets out to find Betty (a man!), the person responsible for his parents death. The Chosen One’s journey is filled with many obstacles, none of which make sense or generate much laughter.

The film’s big gimmick, inserting Oedekerk and other actors into an old film, is totally lost on the audience because most of them won’t be familiar with the original film (1976’s Tiger and Crane Fist), or appreciate how much effort the filmmakers went through to get the new footage to match the grain of the original. The gimmick worked in “Forrest Gump” and “Zelig” because we were already familiar with the original images.

As a director, Oedekerk is his own worst enemy. He’s too close to the material and the lead actor (himself) to stand back and see what works and what doesn’t. As an actor, Oedekerk is only serviceable. He mugs his way through every shot, never afraid that the director will replace him. As the film’s writer, Oedekerk fares best. Every now and then you see a glimmer of parody, only to be disappointed when Oedekerk the director squanders the moment.

With the success of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the popularity of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and the martial arts influences in “The Matrix” and “The Musketeer,” perhaps Oedekerk thought now was the time for a parody. Even though Oedekerk works the modern references into “Kung Pow,” what he is basically spoofing are the Hong Kong action films of the 1970s.

That means “Kung Pow” arrives too late to be relevant. This stuff might have been funny twenty years ago, but it’s way past its prime in this day and age. Kids may find “Kung Pow” more to their liking, especially if they’re young and haven’t developed any thought process yet.

“Kung Pow: Enter The Fist” is a case of too many cooks spoiling the won ton soup.


Kung tomfoolery doesn’t have the comic chops


Steve Oedekerk, Tad Horino, Philip Tan, Jennifer Tung. Directed by Steve Oedekerk. Rated PG- 13. 80 Minutes.


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