Siu Lam Juk Kau [Shaolin Soccer] (2001)

(In theaters, August 2004) It took years for this film to come to North America and be released in theatres, but it was worth the wait: This soccer/kung-fu sports comedy is just about what you’d expect from the premise (a bunch of misfits use shaolin skills to become a top-notch soccer team) and the execution is just as energetic as you’d except from a Hong Kong action film. Crammed with an astonishing amount of special effects, Shaolin Soccer is, by far, the funniest football/soccer film you’ll see: It’s a wonder why it wasn’t judged sufficiently commercial by Miramax, especially after the rather good translation/re-editing job they did on the film. (The film itself is subtitled -hurrah!- but the text snippets on-screen have been translated.) Writer/Director Stephen Chow is an enormously likable lead, but the entire cast gets the chance to score some points in the comedy department. As far as the sport scenes themselves are concerned, well, you will have to see them for yourself: The cartoonish nature of the stunts (including flaming footballs, shock waves and shattered concrete) is perfectly balanced with more simple gags and the result is a film that practically begs to be shown to the entire family. Good, great stuff.

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