Steve Oedekerk is known for his work on the TV show Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius TV show, writing The Nutty Professor, and directing the Ace Ventura movies. One of his less lauded accomplishments is directing, writing, producing and starring in a re-dubbed Kung Fu movie called Kung Pow! Enter the Fist. Despite its relatively unknown status, it remains one of the best bad movies ever made.
Using footage from Tiger and Crane Fist, a 1976 Hong Kong action movie, Oedekerk edits himself into existing footage and replaces old dialogue. The ensuing 81 minutes are interspersed with uproarious jokes and cringe-worthy, campy physical comedy. It seems as if some parts of the movie were designed for little kids, while the adult humor that comprises the re-dubbed dialogue is for adults. It’s the kind of movie that may cause tear-inducing laughter in one scene and uncomfortable shifting in another.
The idea of the comedy-karate movie idea came originally from Jackie Chan. Despite his unnatural talent, Chan recognized that he was not nearly as good as Bruce Lee, who made the kung fu movie genre famous with Enter the Dragon (1973). Realizing he could not compete with the greatest martial artist of the century, Chan decided to tie comedy in with his movies to help differentiate them. This skyrocketed Chan to international stardom and laid the groundwork for Kung Pow!.
Oedekerk plays a character known only as “The Chosen One”. When his family is murdered in his infancy he is raised by rodents in the wild. His already prodigious karate powers only grow, and his talent becomes legendary. However, to defeat his family’s killer, a powerful kung fu master named Betty, The Chosen One must seek out a master to refine his skills.
Replete with traditional martial arts movie motifs and clichés, Kung Pow! playfully mocks the genre. Farcical, outlandish comedy brings tears to some audience members’ eyes, but an unfunny, CGI karate cow suddenly reduces the viewers to eye-rolling just as quickly.
One has to question what the cast and crew must have thought while working on Kung Pow!. Surely they recognized the potential within the movie, yet the sophomoric garbage that permanently besmirches the comedy somehow made its way into the final cut.
However, the true blame should be placed squarely on Steve Oedekerk’s shoulders. One cannot imagine the thought process involved in the director, producer, writer and star of a film single-handedly tarnishing what could have been a great movie. Rarely can a moviemaker claim such an “auteur” status and appear to be the sole author of a movie. Yet Oedekerk does himself a disservice by fathering a mixture of comedic gold and shame that was virulently despised by critics but has gained a cult following.
If you haven’t seen Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, you should consider it. I cannot stress how important it is to view this movie with low expectations. If you expect nothing, the genuine comedy within the dialogue will stay with you and surely convert you to the cult. However, if you go into this movie with any hope that it will be holistically clever and entertaining, you will be sorely disappointed and I, not Mr. Oedekerk, will be the one to blame for leading you astray.