Shaolin Soccer

In the regular course of things, I'm not a sports fan- the things that get called sports that I like, are things I simply don't think of as sport because in my head, they're too pretty (e.g. figure skating, gymnastics and the equestrian events at the Olympics). One major exception to that, though, is football- specifically World Cup football, or soccer as Americans like to call it.
And given that one of my favourite films of all time is a rather unorthodox football fantasy, and we are thisclose to the next World Cup, I thought this was probably the perfect time for me to talk about it here. Ladies, gentlemen and disgruntled blog-readers who are sick of me, I now present: Shaolin Soccer. (I'll let the 'soccer' bit slide for now, since Shaolin Football sounds so much less alliterative and sibilant).

The story is a fairly simple one, really: a former star football player who sold out by throwing a match attempts to turn a family of down-on-their-luck, reluctant (ok, all but one of them are reluctant) Shaolin experts into a prizewinning football team. Sounds clear enough, eh?
The genius, though, lies in the fact that Shaolin Soccer is- as its name indicates- more Shaolin and less soccer. It's a kung fu comedy through and through, quite cheerfully crude and silly in places (any Stephen Chow fan should probably know to expect that out of his films), but it doesn't lack its moments of seriousness, particularly in some scenes involving the team's coach or the love interest played by Vicki Zhao, who is an absolutely awesome character in her own right.

more Shaolin and less soccer (above and below). See what I mean?

On reflection, it's much more than plain old martial arts slapstick- at its heart, it really is a story about the characters (especially Sing, played by Stephen Chow)- about the brothers and how they repair their own fractured relationship, the coach and his attempt to redeem his past mistakes, and the fact that every single one of the protagonists is an outcast from society in a major way and the game is a chance for them (especially Sing) to get people to respect their way of life. The other thing I really love about the movie is the fact that, for lack of a better term, it's absolutely 100%. No half-assed attempts to be ironically clever- it owns its silliness, and is, in spirit, a lot like another old favourite of mine: Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.

Classic trope for an epic scene (good guy strides in in slow motion to join a do-or-die mission with his long coat fluttering behind him in the wind), done Shaolin Soccer-style as shown above (the man is in his undershirt and boxers, and what flutters in the wind is a bathrobe). I couldn't not include these stills- goalie Empty Hand dressed like Bruce Lee in Game of Death!Below is a still from one of my favourite of the matches shown in the movie, featuring a cross-dressing Cecilia Cheung and Karen Mok and some fantastic acrobatics. I can't say more about why it's my favourite without giving out spoilers, but I will say it has something to do with their facial expressions and the goalkeeper in the two stills above.
And there were moments- quite a lot for a comedy, really, especially where the good guys are playing a football team that is actually named Team Evil- when I looked like the good coach in the above still, minus the yellow jacket.

*screenshots taken by me, everything else from metacafe.


ineedmoredrama said...

I have nothing new to add to your post except to say Chow Sing Chi is awesome and I've seen Shaolin Soccer and Kungfu Hustle like 10,000 times each. His older films are even more crude but essential watching for any fan. Same goes for CJ7 - not the most brilliant but a must watch if only to spot the "typical" Chow Sing Chi speech and mannerisms!

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Evie: Hi!!!! I love his films, even with all the poo jokes and crudeness- CJ7 didn't quite hit the spot like Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle (like you, I've been a loopy repeat viewer of those), but that cute little alien made a lot worthwhile, and like you said, it's classic Chow.

ineedmoredrama said...

Despite what I said about CJ7, I think it's the only Chow film (at least from what I remember) I've seen that made me bawl like a baby! So aside from the usual from Chow, I guess it was also memorable for me since it made me all emotional haha.

Amy T said...

ooo i love love love this film so much. its so hilarious. shaolin soccer definately made football seem fun

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