Shaolin Soccer | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Shaolin Soccer

Director, writer, editor and star Stephen Chow is a cinematic super-force in Hong Kong, where he kick-started the genre of mo lei tau (nonsense comedy) and became wildly successful making crazy spoofs on popular movies. In Shaolin Soccer, Chow manages to lampoon both the leaden seriousness of dogma-laden martial arts dramas and the hackneyed tale of triumphant sports underdogs. As an unemployed Buddhist monk, Sing (Chow) can't seem to find a constructive outlet for his philosophy or his "mighty iron leg" until he meets a has-been soccer coach, Fung. Sing rounds up his old crew from the Shaolin temple -- they are now fat, balding, grown weak -- and enlists them in his version of the game, complete with mental discipline, acrobatic kicks, gravity-defying leaps and balls that stop time (there are no limits when one applies kung fu correctly). Chow lays on a giddy mix of kung fu, soccer, special effects, slapstick, purposefully cheesy dialogue, a couple wildly inappropriate (hence hilarious) song-and-dance numbers -- and even a splash of romance. A deadpan weirdness (think Repo Man) runs through the film that makes even the non-action set-up scenes entertaining. And when Sing and his emboldened brothers take on Team Evil in the big cup match, they will bend it like Buddha. 3 cameras