Kung Pow - Enter the Fist
starring Steve Oedekerk, Jennifer Tung and Leo Lee
written and directed by Steve Oedekerk
I have watched this film about two dozen times already, and I have not yet stopped laughing myself into a tummyache over it. It is a comedy, a spoof on Hong Kong martial arts films like Bruce Lee’s famous Enter the Tiger. What Steve Oedekerk did was take the 1976 Hong Kong movie Hu He Shuang Xing, or Tiger and Crane Fists, remove the sound and substituted an English script with a completely different story. So there is a lot of comedy right here already, regardless of what the story of the English script turns out to be. Not only does the dialogue not synchronize with the mouth movements - something that we have all come to expect from Chinese movies and a perennial joke in America about Chinese cinema - but the English story does not synchronize with the visual story taking place on the screen, either. Oedekerk used computer technology to insert himself into the scenes of the original Chinese movie, then he added a few scenes of his own to smooth things over a little. The result is supremely stupid and clever at the same time. Stupid like a university student’s gag - a bunch of friends getting off by turning the sound down on the TV and then making up their own words to go with the pictures. Or, like driving your car down the highway, listening to your favorite songs on the radio. But the lyrics are not clear and you never bothered to learn the correct words, so you have to substitute your own - what you think they are - to keep the rhythm going. (This is how the singer Weird Al Yankovic - a dentist by education, I think - began his hilarious career.)
I showed this video to all of my students as an end-of-term video. After their in-class end-of-tem test was finished and returned I always show them an English video rather than start something new on the last day. Students are not always enthusiastic about my choices, but this year they raved about Enter the Fist. I have to say that I think it is the most age-appropriate movie that I have ever shown them. They were interested, they laughed at all the right places, and afterwards students approached me to ask questions about it - the title, etc., because they wanted to rent it themselves to watch at home.
That was an excellent reaction, I thought. But I could not understand the reaction of some of the Japanese English teachers who sometimes watched it with me. In one class a teacher ordered me to turn it off. Afterwards she said to me that she thought the movie was “not noble.” I thought, “Noble? It’s a movie. You want nobility then go to church. It’s funny and the kids love it.”