Dispensing with any understatement whatsoever, Chow bombards the viewer with one absurdity after another until the moviegoer, almost inevitably, finds himself submerged in a nearly drunken state of utter hilarity. Having been assaulted by numerous wildly overdone action sequences, a villain so fiendish his sadistic antics are actually laughable, several wildly bizarre song and dance routines, a completely hammy romance, and so much more, the viewer is left almost stunned by the movie. It really is a delight to watch.
Virtually every element in the film is so prodigiously overdone that the sheer monumentality of Shaolin Soccer's ridiculousness makes it genuinely funny. Sing's love interest, Mui (Vicki Zhao), for example, suffers from what could be the worst case of acne that can be seen in any movie, although, of course, the viewer knows from the instant he encounters her that she will be revealed as a beauty in the end. Not only that, but, as she is a talented martial artist in her own right, a fact revealed to Sing and the viewer by the mystical skill with which she makes buns, the latter also knows that she will have some part to play in the protagonists' victory over Team Evil. Even the inevitability with which such events unfold somehow adds to their humor. The director so develops the viewer's anticipation that he is later able to satisfy him with whatever outrageous resolution he provides for a given strand of the movie's story.
As funny as are Sing's courtship of Mui, Team Evil's preposterous villainy, and the various tangential incidents that befall the film's protagonists, Shaolin Soccer's best sequences, however, are its depictions of the soccer matches played by Fung's team. All of these are filled with such wildly exaggerated, magical kung fu techniques that they are both truly exciting and painfully hilarious. Sing and his teammates leap into and spin through the air, move so fast they are actually able to occupy multiple places at the same time, kick balls into the stratosphere, and propel balls with such force that they burst into flame or cause the earth to ripple like water below them. The viewer is almost certain to find himself laughing again and again at the sheer excess and silliness of these scenes.
Although I cannot say that Shaolin Soccer is a great movie, it is so fast paced, so utterly ridiculous, and so wildly overdone that it is one of the most entertaining comedies I have encountered in some time.
Review by Keith Allen
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