Best of the Decade, No. 95: Shaolin Soccer

Gagman and opportunist, multi-hyphenate Stephen Chow timed his football comedy to coincide with the arrival of the World Cup in Japan. Tapping into the global power of the sport, he also made the first successful HK crossover hit which actually had more comedy than martial arts in it. The original pre-Weinstein cut of Shaolin Soccer is happily scatological and senseless in its story of a drunken master (Chow) who learns that sport is the best way to spread his kung fu gospel. There are some poetic moments as well, such as adorable Vicki Zhao, who makes steamed buns using her own martial arts skills. Chow and Zhao assemble a team of misfits who, in the best Major League tradition, suit up for a final match that will avenge the honor of slighted soccer star. The China Super Cup final plays out like a Fox Sports interstitial on Barry Bonds’s medicine cabinet. The film established Chow not only as a superior clown but one who knew how to use his camera. And beneath the laughs is a serious point: while martial arts may be the glory of Chinese’s aesthetics, the world demands that its fundamentals be applied to more modern pursuits.
See also: Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

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