Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist

| February 7, 2002

Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist has drawn many comparisons to a Saturday Night Live skit given far too long to live — and the comparisons, sadly enough, are quite deserved.
Writer/director/producer/star master Steve Oedekerk bought the rights to the 1976 kung-fu film Savage Killers, redubbed it, added new scenes, and digitally inserted his head onto the body of the original star. A fitting gimmick, given that the end result feels much like digital insertion of a completely different type. Kung Pow! is reminiscent of Kentucky Fried Movie’s “Fistful of Yen,” What’s Up, Tiger Lily, and just about any episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, although it doesn’t earn the right to sit at the same table as any of them.
The premise of Kung Pow! is thus: Our hero — creatively dubbed The Chosen One — is on a mission of revenge, having dedicated his life to tracking down and killing the evil kung-fu master — Master Betty, for no other reason than the half-second chuckle the name elicits — who killed his parents. Did that take you eighty-one minutes to read? I didn’t think so, and all the gags and tangents in the world can’t sufficiently flesh it out into an eighty one-minute film, either.
Although he’s an unfamiliar face to moviegoers, Steve Oedekerk is no newbie to the film biz. He wrote Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, Patch Adams, the hilarious Nothing to Lose, and both of the Nutty Professor movies, as well as having both written and directed Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Odekerk has also produced some half a dozen TV and film projects. Oedekerk’s multifaceted nature might be just what killed Kung Pow!, though. Example: I can drive, tap dance, and wash my hair, but I have the good sense not to attempt all three things at once, and I’d like to think that anyone present would try and stop me if I gave it a whirl. Such is the case with Kung Pow! — with Odekerk writing, directing, starring, and providing the vocal dubbing, it’s a case of one guy having too damn much sway over a project’s result. There’s nobody to pipe up and say, “Um, Mr. Odekerk, you’re squeezing each and every joke until it shrivels into some sort of hideous humor prune –perhaps that wasn’t your intent.”
For there are funny moments to be found in Kung Pow!, amazingly enough — wildly funny moments, most of which are to be found during the film’s first twenty or so minutes. I’d list a few, just to prove to you that they actually exist, but they’re too few in number to cavalierly give away like that. I’m not sure what happens after that, whether Oedekerk has run out of comedic steam, or if audiences get to anticipating the caliber of joke, but laughter becomes a much less common occurrence. Through much of Kung Pow!, I was fervently hoping that Big Jim Slade would come crashing through the theater wall to save the day, a la “Fistful of Yen”.
If you want a good parody, save your cash for Not Another Teen Movie. If you’re looking for something to rent for when the kegger starts to die down and Half Baked is checked out, consider Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist — and I said consider, mind you.

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