Shaolin Soccer (2001)

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I do love this film. I remember it being screened here in the UK in ’04 and seeing it when I was 13 and I still thoroughly enjoy it now. It may have aged a bit in how the graphics look but it is still a complete barrel of entertainment.

Fung (Ng Man-tat); once legendary footballer, now rag covered lackie for Hung (Patrick Tse) bumps into a Shaolin practising kung fu artist in the street. Sing (Stephen Chow) is a master with his legs and with his 5 brothers all with their own kung fu styles, they decide to enter the soccer/football tournament in hope of winning money, fame and beating Hung’s Team Evil.

This is such a cartoony sort of movie and it is so much fun, so I do think that anyone that doesn’t laugh or even smile watching this deserves to sit in a shaded corner and think about their life. It’s not serious, it includes a brilliantly absurd Thriller-esque dance break and the dialogue delivered is hilarious, especially between Sing and the baker girl Mui. He insults her or sings in her face. Generally the writing is playful yet still following the drama of narrative in setting up the problem, having them face it and try to overcome failure.

The special effects themselves were, as a just about pre-teen, mind-blowing. I guess they were pretty effective for any audiences in the early noughties, with fierce fiery animals blasting footballs across the screen or people multiplying as they quickly save many balls from getting in the net. Now, I admit the graphics do look slightly out of whack and however comic book it feels, the ageing is certainly there but it doesn’t ruin the film at all.

Stephen Chow directs this martial arts comedy with great glee, it’s clear he’s having a (foot)ball helming this project and therefore so do we when watching it. It’s such an over the top story with ridiculous ideas and silly jokes but they come together in such an enjoyable way and it’s not like there’s no attachment because you do root for their team and you buy into their characters enough to follow their progress.

I’d say every actor in this Hong Kong feature has a big personality meaning they bring a spirited performance to their character. Chow himself is on form as the leader of the brothers, trying to hone his technique to ‘the beautiful game’. Zhao Wei scuttles around in a very funny hunched way as she struggles with her looks and feelings for Sing. Light Weight played by the less than light weighted Lam Chi-chung is thunderous and cracks me up when striving for eggs. All the brothers and Fung are exaggerated and as I said every actor makes the film more alive.

An underdog film with a unique bite, this is a very funny and very entertaining pleasure for the eyes and ears. It’s been over 10 years since I saw it in the cinema and I still think it’s awesome now.

8/10

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