Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Rin Sakurazawa (Kou Shibasaki) has graduated from Shaolin U at the top of her class and has made a vow to her teachers to go back to Japan, the Shaolin monks are in China obviously, and spread the art of Shaolin. This is the premise that launches director Katsuyuki Motohiro’s film, produced by the borderline legendary Stephen Chow, a movie calling itself ‘Shaolin Girl’. A movie that after it ran its course probably needed Stephen Chow to have a deeper involvement in the movie than just that as a producer.

Anyway Rin arrives back home ready to spread the gospel of Shaolin, but the Japan she left when she was just a little girl is different from the one she’s experiencing now as a young woman. The problem is that nobody seems down with Kung Fu anymore. Children run from her when she tries to shove Kung Fu down their throats, just as they probably should do when confronted by fanatical lunatics, her grandfathers old dojo is now a greenhouse for weed infestation and her former sensei Kenji (Yosuke Eguchi) runs a Chinese food restaurant and shows no more interest in the arts. The only person who seems halfway interested in learning the ways of the Shaolin is the pretty Tai Chi master Minmin (Kitty Zhang Yugi) who is a waitress at Kenji’s restaurant. That is in addition to being a top flight lacrosse player at the local University and being a closet lesbian. I have inferred the lesbian part.

Now about this local University. It is run by chairman by chairman Oba who is played by veteran actor Toru Nakamura and who is, of course, the heavy in this flick. A real twist in one of these movies would be to put Mr. Nakamura in the cast and NOT have him be the bad guy. Mr. Nakamura also has arguably the best hair in the history of movies. I’m not completely sure what’s going on with Chairman Oba and his school but he’s is evil and he wants enrollment to increase and he kills reporters who say bad things about his school. Kind of like Ohio State. He’s also a Kung Fu master as well with he and Chef Kenji having a some kind of sordid past.

Okay, so Rin joins Minmin on the Lacrosse team in an effort to spread Shaolin and also to be closer to her. I inferred that last part. Rin can fly and stuff and shoot the ball real hard but she has no concept of teamwork which alienates from her from her legion of crazy hot line mates. Her abilities however have caught the eye of Chairman Oba who senses Rin’s latent super power and wants her to join him on the dark side or something. Oh, and for some reason Chef Kenji has assumed the mantle of coach of the lacrosse team.

Regardless of all of that, somehow the Chairman has to bring Rin to the dark side so he kidnaps her Tai Chi lover. Rin has deal with this stress in addition to learning how to trust in her lacrosse teammates and learn the art of teamwork. Now I’m not to give it away for you but sometimes when all seems lost don’t underestimate the power of a hug.

One of the problems that I think you’ll find with ‘Shaolin Girl’ is that I have heard it said that this is a loosely fitted sequel to ‘Shaolin Soccer’. Other than probably hoodwinking a few more people into theaters when this was released in Japan, comparing this movie to ‘Shaolin Soccer’ truly does it no favors. Where ‘Shaolin Soccer’ was borderline brilliance deceptively encased around some lightweight fluff, this movie here was disjointed nonsensical fluff encased around lightweight fluff. Because there was so much junk in this film director Motohiro didn’t seem to able to focus on one thing long enough for the audience to care too much about anything. Was it a sports movie? Well, not really, because the lacrosse wasn’t all that well integrated into the movie and really didn’t kick in until this silly closing credits montage. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy, there aren’t enough thrills to call it an adventure, it is almost a martial arts film, but even the martial arts were stilted and ultimately unsatisfying. The only thing remotely clever about this movie was the underlying gay relationship between Rin and Minmin. If after Minmin was rescued she ran into Rin’s arms and the two started making out, now that would’ve been something. It wouldn’t have made the movie better but it certainly would’ve made it unique.

The special effects were better than ‘Shaolin Soccer’ at least and while the movie was underwhelming and disappointing it is still watchable. But disappointing is the key word when discussing ‘Shaolin Girl’ a movie that we were hoping would be a worthy successor to ‘Shaolin Soccer’ but in this movie watchers opinion fell woefully short.

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