Dragonball Evolution -- Film Review

NEW YORK -- Another Japanese manga bites the dust with its cinematic adaptation: in this case, the "Dragonball Evolution" series, which has spawned a lucrative worldwide cottage industry that has lasted a quarter-century.

That success is likely to come to a halt with this big-screen version, which will displease fans and prove baffling to the uninitiated.

A narration during the opening credits attempts to provide some background information about an ancient battle for Earth waged by the evil Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) -- why they named the biggest badass in the universe after a tiny flute is a mystery. But the real story line has to do with Goku (Justin Chatwin), an 18-year-old given a mystical dragonball by his grandfather, Gohan (Randall Duk Kim). Said dragonball, when matched with the six others in existence, has the power to grant its holder any wish
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Lord Piccolo is highly interested in this ability, of course, and while Goku is distracted beating up some bullies and wooing a comely fellow student (Jamie Chung), he drops a house on the old man.

Just before dying, Gohan instructs Goku to find Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) to help him procure the remaining dragonballs before the coming solar eclipse ... Zzzzzzzzz ... sorry about that; where was I? Oh, yes. So Goku sets out on his adventure, joining forces before the final showdown not only with Master Roshi, who turns out to be a Hawaiian shirt-wearing letch, but also with the sexy Bulma (Emmy Rossum) and the thieving Yamcha (Joon Park).

Completely lacking in visual, narrative or stylistic coherence, the film also suffers from cheap-looking visual effects and poorly staged and edited action se���������������������������quences that will not exactly please the fanboys. Not helping matters is the problematic casting. Rossum comes across about as tough as Hannah Montana; Chatwin is a decade too old for his role; Marsters, so compelling in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," is vocally and visually unrecognizable; and Chow, though he seems to be enjoying himself, clearly is slumming.

A post-credits sequence sets the groundwork for a sequel, but that is wishful thinking on the part of the producers.

Opened: Friday, April 10 (Fox)
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