Kung Fu Dunk

Bottom Line: A tacky but watchable idol flick that rebounds on star charisma.

HONG KONG -- Taiwanese director Kevin Chu Yen-ping, who churned out 40 commercial films in 30 years, has made a B-movie with an A-list cast and crew on a $10 million budget in "Kung Fu Dunk." With Asia's hottest Chinese pop star Jay Chou starring and singing his own wacky hip hop songs, dynamic stunts by "House of Flying Daggers" action choreographer Ching Siu Tung, CGI by the Beijing effects team that worked on "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" and sets designed by Yee Chung Man ("Curse of the Golden Flower"), you'd expect slick action and streamlined storytelling.

Instead, Chu cheapens the package by throwing in tired plot formulas, in-your-face product placements and a cameo lineup of one-time comedians whose antics are more misses than hits. But then, Chu's brazen disregard for tastefulness is itself a style statement.������

"Kung Fu Dunk's" concept of melding sports with kung fu invites associations with "Shaolin Soccer," but it is really a one-man variety show by Jay Chou. He is the film's cash cow to attract its target youth market. Overseas the film may have greater impact in DVD.������

Jay (Jay Chou) is an orphan raised in a martial arts academy after his guru turned into an icicle while trying out a kung fu move that can "freeze time." As Jay tires of being a human punch bag, he succumbs to agent-wannabe Wang (Eric Tsang)'s hoop dreams of exploiting his sharpshooting and chopsocky skills for slam dunks. Li enrolls Jay into a top university varsity team to groom him into a basketball star.������

As the highlight of the film, the matches are shot with gravity defying abandon. The wicked stunt choreography flip, scoop and fling the players around on high wires, making them look so cool it just about outweighs the exaggerated camera work and manic editing.

Chou has demonstrated in "Initial D" and "Secret" that he enjoys greater chemistry with father figures than with love interests. The savvy Eric Tsang is a well cast surrogate father for Chow to hone his trademark daft-prodigy image in an entertaining combo that borrows from "Rain Man" and "Jerry McGuire."

The casting of other Taiwanese idols, Chen Bo-lin and Baron Chen, offer potential for an all-star vehicle that also raises dramatic stakes as either rivals or comrades of the hero. Sadly, there are no bonding scenes -- a serious defect in any sports story where camaraderie is the indispensible gelling agent. And how come the players spend more time boozing than training? Is this a sporty version of "Drunken Fists"?

KUNG FU DUNK
Emperor Motion Picture (International Ltd)/Chang Hong Channel Film & Video Co. Ltd/Shanghai Film Group Corporation presentation
Sales Agent: Emperor Motion Picture (International Ltd)
Credits:
Director: Kevin Chu
Writers: Kevin Chu, Lam Chiu Wing, Ann Wang
Producers: Alber Lee, Xu Pengle, Fargo Pi
Executive producers: Albert Yeung, Wu Tun, Ren Zhonglun
Action director: Tony Ching Siu-tung
Director of photography: Zhao Xiaoding
Production designer: Yee Chung Man
Music: Ko Ishikawa
Costume designer: Shirley Chan
Editor: Chen Po-wen
Cast:
Jay: Jay Chou
Wang: Eric Tsang
Lily: Charlene Choi
Ding-Wei: Chen Bo-lin
Xiao Lan: Baron Chen
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating
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