Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’ll tell you what, if the Chinese can put five of these guys on the floor during the Beijing games in 2008, and then bring Yao Ming off the pine, because he’s not cracking this starting five, he’ll be lucky if he even makes the team, you might as well chalk up the gold in basketball because LeBron, Kobe, Rip and them won’t stand a chance. But then this is just a movie and I think we all know that the gold is coming back to where it belongs, don’t we? I reserve the right to edit this statement should the U.S. blow it again. But enough of the nationalism as we take a look at Chinese Pop Star Jay Chou going Stephen Chou on us with ‘Kung Fu Dunk’, a title that is almost impossible to look at and not have some interest in seeing what the movie is all about.

Outside a basketball court a baby is left abandoned and found by a homeless man who takes the abandoned toddler to a school for Martial Arts. Young Fang Shi Jie grows up learning the arts under the watchful eye of his teacher, but when his trusted teacher dies trying a particularly dangerous technique, one that can actually turn back the hands of the clock, Fang Shi continues at the school without his trusted master to guide him. Hmmm… I wonder is that technique is going resurface at anytime later on in this movie? Now a young man Fang Shi (Chou) is at odds with his various masters at the school and walks around the streets of – hell I don’t know – all depressed and stuff, when he runs into a street hustler named Zhen Li (Eric Tsang), who notices Fang’s pinpoint accuracy involving just about anything involved in throwing something at a target. Zhen convinces Fang to come with him to a club where the two hustle a bunch of criminals out of there loot in a game of darts, which ultimately results in the one real Kung Fu scene in the movie, but it is a good one, where Fang kicks the collective asses of a bunch of thugs amidst crashing glass, a plethora of roundhouse kicks to skulls, and plenty of suspension wires.

Ah but where is the basketball? Seems like Fang is not only a pinpoint accurate dart player but also can rain jump shots so precisely that he could beat Steve Nash in a game of H.O.R.S.E blind folded. Zhen finagles Fang on the local college basketball team, using the hook that Fang is using his newfound basketball fame to find his long lost parents, but first he needs to impress his teammates that he is worthy to be on the squad. Melodrama abounds as we meet his teammates who consist mainly of Ting-Wei (Chin Bo-lin) who drinks before, during and after games because of a game he lost to his archenemy some time ago, his baby sister Lily (Charlene Choi) who is the team mascot and who Fang has an awful crush on, and Xiao Lan (Baron Chen) who Lily is smitten with but he is still moping and mourning the death of his girlfriend. I think. Anyway, there is an evil dude who is supporting the evil basketball team which has been dominating play as of late, but the addition of Feng to this non-evil team kinds of even things out a bit. Eventually it’s going to have to come down to a battle between these two teams with all the marbles on the line, with the bad team having evil on their side and the good team having a team of Shaolin monks on their side and naturally, a last second shot with seconds remaining on the clock – but this time with a twist.

Apparently ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ was based off of a popular Manga called ‘Slam Dunk!’ though the comparisons to Stephen Chow and his ‘Shaolin Soccer’ are unavoidable. As of today, Stephen Chow doesn’t have a hell of a lot too worry about as ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ isn’t nearly the entertaining farce that ‘Shaolin Soccer’ was, and I love basketball a billion times more than I care about soccer. There are plenty of things wrong with ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ with the most glaring issue being that it’s just a plain stupid movie. I understand the need for a little irreverence in a movie calling itself ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ but we still need something that makes just a little bit of sense along the way and has a narrative that has some basis in some kind of reality that we can get a grip on. This film is basically a series of slickly shot, high gloss, fancy looking scenes that don’t really connect in a way to form any kind of a decent narrative.

Not helping matters is the fact that there’s not a real character anywhere in this movie as Jay Chou walks around the film with one single expression on his face, Charlene Choi has the thankless task of being cute and staying out of the way, while co-stars Chin Bo-Lin and Baron Chin have the thankless task of being cute and getting in the way. The movie probably could used a little more Kung Fu to even out the Dunk because the few Kung Fu scenes were very well executed, just as the basketball sequences were, though we question how many dudes can really take off at the half court line throw it down. Repeatedly.

‘Kung Fu Dunk’ was a fairly disappointing outing that we found its comedic elements too few and far between, had a crapload of characters that we thought represented nothing, and was way too melodramatic for no good reason, and didn’t have nearly enough Kung Fu to go along with the copious amounts of Dunk.

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