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Kung Fu Dunk (2008)

April 25, 2013
Despite the poster’s suggestion, there is nothing supernatural about his basketball skills.

MY CALL:  Wholesome, family-friendly fun.  You may need to struggle through some subtitles, but this is way better than any of that Air Bud nonsense.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCHKung Fu Hustle (2004; not family-friendly), Kung Fu Panda (2008, 2011; VERY family-friendly), Chocolate (2009; no small children).  But don’t watch Fireball (2009), which horribly failed as a very violent mix of martial arts and basketball.

Our story begins with great cinematography (only early in the movie), an orphaned infant and a note.  The child is raised by a kung fu master and trained with all of the clichéd wisdom behind the yins, yangs and qi (“chi”) of the universe and one’s self.  After the untimely death of his master, Fang Shijie (Jay Chou; The Green Hornet, Curse of the Golden Flower) grows up as a kind-hearted yet semi-rebellious kung fu student.

Fang gets involved with some of the wrong people and gets expelled from his kung fu school.  But his skillful aim is quickly discovered by friendly hustler who directs his hands to basketball.  It turns out that Fang’s skill in kung fu translates well, making him a 100% free thrower even from half court…that is, when there’s no pressure or opposition.  His greatest opposition is from the team captain, who has a drinking problem that is presented in a rather family-friendly way.

Fang needs to learn the basic skills of the game and teamwork to be able to utilize his world class arm.  Through the support of his teammates and hard work he develops into a fine player.

Strong elements of comedy and classic kung fu theater action-isms mesh well with modern, stylistic camerawork.  The fighting and stunts are good (not great), and are not the focus of this movie after the first act.  This movie is about basketball and teamwork.

The greatest thing about this movie is that Fang’s skill is never met with arrogance.  He is always humble.  He wants to be an appreciated member of the team in addition to showing what he can do.  He also helps his team captain “defeat” his drinking problem.

The only bad thing about this family flick is part of the finale during the final game.  At this point hokey-wholesome turns uber-ridiculous when Fang’s kung fu school masters come to his aid with their weird, Harry Potter-esque personalities.  This scene also made everything about Fang instead of him being part of the team.  Thankfully, after 5-10 minutes of this, it’s back to teamwork along with an unfortunately slow but happy ending.

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