Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Genres - Comedy, Action  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Comedy, Martial Arts  |   Release Date - Apr 2, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - China , Hong Kong , Turkey , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Taking the hard-luck underdog sports comedy to new levels in both concept and visualization, workhorse Hong Kong funnyman Stephen Chiau brings his patented brand of hyper-kinetic humor to the playing field in the highest-grossing HK film of 2001, Shaolin Soccer. Chiau fans familiar with his often unique form of spoofery in such films as 1996's God of Cookery and The King of Comedy (1999) will find the Shaolin Soccer actor/director in top form here, with visual jokes and the familiar humorous wordplay never missing a beat and retaining the high kinetic energy that keeps the film flowing at a fun pace. Somewhat new to Chiau's films is the use of CG animation, an aspect that drives many of the film's most memorable scenes including the inevitable final game between Chiau's team of Shaolin masters-cum-soccer spectaculars, and the uberevil, underwater practicing, super-steroid pumping Team Evil. Highlighting the players amazing otherworldly soccer abilities while throwing realism to the wind, the use of animation provides some of the film's funniest moments as the power of ancient gods and natural forces are summoned with the sole purpose of scoring the ever-elusive goal and defeating Team Evil once and for all. While the film isn't entirely original outside of its high concept main theme, the likable characters and original set pieces will no doubt make fans of even those who generally avoid sports-themed movies. And while not without such minor flaws, it's easy to see why Chiau's highly enjoyable and energetic sports comedy topped the HK box office in 2001.Though a major American release was announced by American rights holders Miramax in early 2002 (under the title Kung Fu Soccer), their target release date of April 5, 2002 was subsequently shifted no less than six times. This coupled with the fact that Miramax announced plans to cut and dub the film only served to isolate the stateside fans of the film whose excitement of finally seeing it on the big screen had been building for over a year. When Miramax once again changed their plans (apparently as the result of the modified version scoring low on test screenings) mere weeks before the August 15, 2003 release, the announcement that the film would go into limited release in its original language (with only minor edits made to attain a "PG-13" rating) ensured that Chiau's debut on Western screens would adequately retain his distinctly Chinese cultural approach.