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  Publicity Stills of "Shaolin Girl"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

First there was “Shaolin Soccer”, then “Kung Fu Hustle.”
Now comes “Shaolin Girl”, the most exciting Kung Fu film ever!

Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro
Cast: Kou Shibasaki, Toru Nakamura, Kitty Zhang, Tin Kai Man, Lam Tze Chung, Takashi Okamura, Yosuke Eguchi
RunTime: 1 hr 53 mins
Released By: Festive Films & GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.festivefilms.com/shaolingirl/

Opening Day: 19 June 2008


Produced by Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, CJ7), Shaolin Girl tells the story of a girl by the name of Rin, who is compelled to take over her late grandfather’s kung-fu dojo. She endures 3,000 days of brutal training at the Shaolin Martial Arts School in China before returning to her native Japan. But what awaits her is a dojo that lies in tatters and students who have abandoned the true discipline of Shaolin kung-fu.

While struggling to restore her grandfather’s school to its former glory and spread a genuine Shaolin philosophy, Rin attends university where she becomes the star member of the lacrosse team. While Rin’s exceptional physical abilities being a string of victories to the team, her teammates in turn come to her aid by helping her reestablish the dojo. Just as fortune seems to smile upon her, a dark incident from a past Rin knew nothing about rears its ugly head and throws her into a fantastic showdown with tremendous evil. Is the Shaolin Girl up to the challenge?

Movie Review:

The Point (Short Review)

Failing to balance the formula from the successful Shaolin Soccer and branching out to something new, Shaolin Girl ended up as a messy and unfunny Kungfu parody homage. It started with the wrong choice of unpopular sport and after spending so much time, the sport element didn’t even matter for the movie finale. The Kungfu and CGI also felt sluggish and unspectacular. Lastly, the villain here lacks strong motivation and characterization to be a badass. Overall, this sissified version of Shaolin Soccer bores with it’s directionless homage.

The Rant (Long Review)

It has always been a trend when a movie became extremely popular that the Hong Kong movie industry will churn up endless supply of Knockoffs to cash in on fans who just couldn’t get enough. Surprisingly Japan have also jumped in the trend by creating this inferior spin-off and even more astonishing was that Stephen Chow had given it’s blessing by serving as a producer (and even include his CJ7 co-star in this mess … maybe he really hates her as the tabloids are saying).

Beside the Kawaii (cute) girls galore (something Japan never seems to be shortage of) and Kitty Zhang to provide the eye candy to relief the boredom, there are so many things that went wrong with Shaolin Girl.

Firstly, the inept copying of Shaolin soccer was pointlessly trivial and served only as a time waster. Rin (Kou Shibasaki) went around recruiting people to learn the Shaolin martial arts like Stephen Chow in Shaolin Soccer but failing to get a decent laugh from it and it even felt that this clueless girl was going around begging desperately.

Then the finding of her fellow dojo mates which shouldn’t be unfamiliar for fans of Shaolin Soccer. The difference here is that it hardly matters whether these fellow ex students return or not because after mentioning them, they fade away into oblivion and once again, a time waster.

The biggest blatant attempt in copying would definitely be the incorporation of sports to guise the teaching of Shaolin Kungfu. The first obvious blunder here was the choice of a fairly unpopular sport - lacrosse. I bet that most viewers would be equally unfamiliar with this sport and this film made no effort in explaining how this game was to be played, i.e. the rules and regulation. The second and biggest mistake of such inclusion would be that while soccer was the crux of Shaolin Soccer finale, the lacrosse game was abandon after ¾ of the story, successfully telling the audience that whatever build up it had doesn’t matters and we the audience had just wasted our time and concentration in following.

Then coming from a country like Japan which is famously remembered for Karate, Ninja and kick ass Animation, it’s a numbing experience to see how the Kungfu and CGI effects are being utilized in Shaolin Soccer. Initially something felt amiss but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I saw Tin Kai Man and Lam Tze Chung getting tired out after fighting a handful of baddies. Then it strikes me and answer was all so clear. The action and animated sequences here are sluggish and uninventive, specially coming right after the likes of Kungfu Hustle and Kungfu Panda. Particularity the finale fights which one would notice, the fighters fell into the pool but remain dry when they are up and fighting. Makes one wonder what kind of water was in the pool.

Finally what was absence in this film that was great in Shaolin Soccer was the villain’s credibility. Patrick Tse Yin was a delight to watch and although he had relatively short screen time, it was obvious what his character wanted, what’s his function in the show and that certain flair that only Patrick Tse could carry out. In Shaolin Girl, the villain played by Tôru Nakamura looks menacingly clueless and basically hanging around until the finale so that he could extract his objective. Might not be a bad thing as many films does that but this one never bothered to explain why didn’t he attack right in the beginning waited for all this while. It’s also make one wonder how did he became rich (spoiler:” after he destroy Rin’s dojo and grandpa”) with the way he chose to run his university.

A protagonist can only be as good as it’s villain is evil and don’t get me started on what went wrong with the female protagonist in this movie. Let just say that Kitty Zhang steals the scene from Kou Shibasaki every time they appeared together. There are far too many things going on in this film; attempts to copy the original movie and attempts to mutate into something new that resulted in a horrible balance of story telling and characterization. In the end, this weak parody of Kungfu just drags on and on, like a pretty girl who couldn’t stop whining.

Movie Rating:

(Franchise failure to score due to bad adaptation of successful formula)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


. CJ 7 (2008)

. Crows Zero (2007)

. Sinking of Japan (2006)

. Umizaru 2: Test of Trust (2006)

. Udon (2006)

. Fearless (2006)

. Bayside Shakedown 2 (2005)

. Kungfu Hustle (2004)

. Dancing Lion VCD (2007)

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