Hey, how about that? A movie on my top ten of the decade that isn't nihilistic, depressing or about people getting shot.
If you had told me 10 years ago that one of my favourite films of the 2000s would be about soccer I would have called you a goddamned, piece of fucking shit, worthless, ass raping, cum guzzling, smelly liar. But I would have been wrong, and you would have been right. Sorry, that was very thoughtless of me. Forgive me?
Had I seen Shaolin Soccer when I was a kid I'm fairly certain it would be a movie that would be up there with Evil Dead, the Star Wars trilogy, Raiders/Temple of Doom, and other legendary films of my youth. Because I saw it as an adult, it's a shame that it wasn't part of my childhood, but you can bet your booty that I'm forcing it to be a component of various nephews' childhoods ("Oh, thanks Uncle Guitarbrother, a Chinese film about soccer. You shouldn't have.").
Mr. Awesome (known to some as Stephen Chow) has made a comedy film about soccer that equals the imagination put into most fantasy epics. And it's incredibly funny as well. Whether it be the soccer field turning into a war zone or a soccer ball being kicked so hard that it becomes a flaming tiger, the viewer is kept in constant amazement at what Mr. Awesome will deliver next. And when your jaw isn't agape at what you're witnessing, you're laughing your ass off at Mr. Awesome's karaoke skills or the fittingly named "Team Evil". Plus the blending of martial arts and soccer seems so perfect I was surprised it hadn't been done before (granted Gymkata blended the wonderful worlds of acrobatics and kung fu, but I digress).
In both this and the almost equally amazing Kung Fu Hustle, Mr. Awesome invokes the spirit of Bruce Lee and gives both films, despite their craziness, heart. Both are about improving oneself and reaching an enlightened place where we can be the most we can be. The theme is a lot more prevalent in Kung Fu Hustle (a scoundrel becoming the "Chosen One"), but in Shaolin Soccer it works just as well. Mr. Awesome has stated that Lee is one of his heroes, not just his films, but his philosophy, so these films also play as a wonderful tribute to the star who died far too early.
And the humour may have some scratching their heads (the script comes from the same man who in The King of Comedy had our hero get distracted from his sentry by playing with a young boys pecker) but to those who are open to it, it's delightful (and not a joke that could get someone arrested in sight!). And the supporting cast is great. Mr. Awesome has to gather a bunch of has-been martial artists to comprise his rag tag soccer team, and each one has something hilarious about them. Even the love interest in the film is a great character, and seriously, how many times can you say that about a comedy?
As for the plot, it's nothing you haven't seen hundreds of times before, a bunch of losers need to pick themselves up to win the big one, but it's performed with such inventiveness and fun that it seems like it's original despite itself. Sure it's predictable, but you'd be disappointed if it turned out any other way.
No matter what your taste in movies, Shaolin Soccer is a must see. It's a joyful, funny movie that could cheer up the gloomiest of Guses. The only critical thing I could possibly say about the film is that I'm not watching it right now.