A simple peasant family enjoys a calm country night, but suddenly their peace is shattered by the intrusion of an evil warlord who has only one objective: find and kill their newborn child, the Chosen One. Though they resist valiantly, they are no match for the warlord’s ferocity, and soon perish. The warlord advances toward the crib, knife in hand. The blade slowly rises and then swoops towards the helpless child—only to be stopped as the baby grabs his wrist, summersaults over his head and proceeds to beat the living daylights out of the evildoer.
Just as Woody Allen took a mediocre spy film and redubbed it to create the comedy What’s Up Tigerlilly?, so director Steve Oedekerk takes the 1976 karate flick, Tiger & Crane Fists and turns it into Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist. The result? Bruce Lee meets The Naked Gun meets Monty Python.
Having survived the assault by the warlord (aka Master Pain), the Chosen One embarks on a quest to avenge his parents’ deaths. Along the way he meets the coward Wimp-Lo, the vixen Ling, the proctologically obsessed Master Tang, the mono-breasted woman warrior Whoa, a kung-fu fighting cow, aliens bent on world domination and a tiny being named Tonguey which inhabits, aptly enough, his tongue.
positive elements: The Chosen One mourns for his family and wants Master Pain to pay for their deaths. Ling’s father sacrifices his life to save the Chosen One from sure defeat in a battle. Master Pain is portrayed as completely evil and someone not to be imitated. One character mocks product placement in movies.
spiritual content: The Chosen One is recognized as having incredible power because of Tonguey. A lion looking suspiciously like The Lion King’s Mufasa appears to the Chosen One in a vision and tells him his future lies in the stars (a reference to aliens who command Master Pain to do evil).
sexual content: From the instant they meet, Ling and the Chosen One exchange a barrage of sexual jokes, puns and sight gags. Master Tang urges the Chosen One not to worry about her shyness since he’s sure she’ll eventually warm up to him. Seconds later he intones, “There you go,” as she lifts her shirt (viewers see her in a bra). After Ling’s father dies, the Chosen One tries to comfort her. She responds by saying, “I’m a little, tiny, horny honey,” and exposes herself to him four times while trying to decide whether or not to sleep with him (she doesn’t and audiences see her from the back).
Other characters aren’t immune from sexual skewering. The Chosen One tears an opponent’s clothing into a skimpy bikini. Wimp Lo’s nipple size is constantly mocked. He also proclaims his manhood by declaring, “I go pee-pee standing up!” Master Tang is particularly perverse. He subjects his students to proctology exams which he calls “The Fist of Fury” and gets sexual pleasure from painfully massaging a dying man’s wound. Whoa, who has only one large, protruding, scantily-clad breast, straddles the Chosen One during a battle and engages in a “tongue fight.” “You must trust the power of the tongue,” she concludes after he defeats her. Tang’s students practice their katas (ritual karate exercises) while saying, “Our sexual preferences are our own business” and “One of us is wearing a push-up bra, it’s lacy and cute.” Master Pain commands everyone to call him “Betty” and later says he wants to “scam some chicks.” During the final battle the Chosen One gains a great tactical advantage when a dog mounts Master Pain’s leg.
violent content: Bruce Lee karate action and Zucker-esque physical comedy get a Matrix makeover in Kung Pow! Violence comes fast and often. Sometimes its bloodless. Sometimes it’s not. For example, in one scene the Chosen One punches a solid, plug-shaped block out of a bad guy. No guts, no gore. However, scant minutes later he spears five men’s eyeballs on his fingers. Ichor and slime. Amongst slapstick scenes and slow-motion silliness, moviegoers will see spurting veins, bloodied faces, gory gashes, spattered walls, a pair of battered, bleeding hands and wounds that spray. Because the movie’s first few minutes are played straight, the murder of the Chosen One’s family appears dark and foreboding. Then in order to escape from Master Pain, the baby throws himself down a hill. When he finally comes to rest beside a peasant woman, she picks him up, murmurs, “So cute,” and pitches him down the other side of the hill. Blood gushes from the shoes of a man whose toes were amputated by Master Pain. Later, viewers see that he’s missing a foot. After a battle, a gashed and slashed Master Tang is accidentally left to fend for himself. The movie closes with him complaining that vultures are picking at his body (a bird tears sinews out of his leg).
crude or profane language: Less than ten relatively mild profanities crop up. Characters use crude expressions like “crap” and “b–ch” about half-a-dozen times. God’s name is used in vain twice.
drug and alcohol content: Having been raised by rodents, the Chosen One was known to “occasionally party with the desert creatures.” Admiring the Chosen One’s physical prowess, one of Master Tang’s students exclaims, “I’ll have some of whatever he’s smoking!”
other negative elements: Like many PG-13 comedies, Kung Pow! spoons out liberal doses of bodily function humor. When the Chosen One faces Master Pain as a baby, he urinates in the warlord’s face. One character accidentally kills a dog with his flatulence. Master Tang complains about his bladder and prostate and during the movie’s “intermission” he says, “I’ve got some yellow liquid for your popcorn and it’s non-dairy!” The Chosen One worries about Master Pain striking him in the crotch during their final battle. When the aliens controlling Master Pain appear, the audience learns that they’re French, “stinky pits and all.”
conclusion: With their poorly dubbed voices, over-the-top chop-socky fight scenes and herky-jerky cinematography, it was inevitable that someone would parody the karate movies that came out of Hong Kong in the ‘70s. While it’s hard to deny its occasional moments of hilarity, Kung Pow!’s crassness, violence and sexual humor cripple an interesting effort. Families beware! This movie strikes below the belt.