After last weeks smashing deput of The Wednesday Review, I couldn’t possibly hope to duplicate such a thoughtful and educational analysis of another equally important work. So I won’t even try. Today I give you, Shaolin Soccer, the most absurd, silly, ludicris, thoroughly enjoyable “sports” movie of all-time. Imagine The Bad News Bears meets The Matrix meets West Side Story meets Jackie Chan. Throw them in a blender on puree, pour the mixture in a pan, bake on high for one hour twenty-seven minutes (and though I can’t speak from experience, I bet this movie is a trip half-baked) and you’ve got a recipe for hilarity.
Ok, the plot. Yes, there is one…sort of. Star soccer player Golden Leg (remember, this is an Asian movie) misses penalty kick in a soccer championship, crowd riots, breaks his leg. The whole ordeal was set up by his rival, Hung, who then becomes the star and then coach of the diabolical soccer club Team Evil. They’re the bad guys. Meanwhile, Golden Leg limps along as equipment manager of said Team Evil. Meanwhile, former Shaolin Kung Fu student and current Shaolin Kung Fu evangelist Mighty Steel Leg Sing is down on his luck and doing his best share the life benefits of Kung Fu with an incredulous world, but nobodies buying. As chance, and the script, would have it Golden Leg and Steel Leg cross paths and hatch a plan to form a Shaolin Soccer team to give Steel Leg and his band of disillusioned former Kung Fu classmates a new lease on life by showcasing Shaolin, and to give Golden Leg a chance to get back at the villainous Hung. Kung Fu hijinks ensue.
Does that sound like a winner or what? Throw in a couple musical numbers, some grade B+ special effects, a charming love story, and a bowl of greasy popcorn and you’ve got yourself the perfect Friday night. The thing that makes such an outlandish premise work is that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. There is no reality, nothing is impossible. I probably was more surprised by what I saw and laughed louder and harder at this movie than I have at anything in a long time. I was hesitant to post the trailer and this clip because I didn’t want to ruin too much of the surprise. But since you’ll just go out and YouTube it anyway……………
In his review of this movie, Roger Ebert bemoaned the star rating system he is forced to use. He gave Shaolin Soccer three out of four stars. Does that mean it’s only slightly less as good or important of a movie as, say, Rear Window, which he gave four stars? Of course not. The star scale is relative to what a movie is trying to accomplish. In the spirit of that argument I give Shaolin Soccer 57 stars!