Shaolin Soccer makes me giddy. More then any film I've seen in the past three years it fills me with unrelenting joy about film, life and love.
So of course I'm going to tell you to avoid it like the plague.
Allow me to clarify. Harvey Weinstein thinks you’re an idiot. Really that's the only explanation. So as a result he allows Miramax to butcher any film that come into his hands. Shaolin Soccer has had thirty minutes trimmed from the film. Because you’re stupid. So allow me to make a proposal: If you see Shaolin Soccer at your local art house theater, drive right by it, just cruise right along, and enjoy one of the better boons of the DVD area, the import section at your local video store. Region Free DVD's as far as the eye can see. Shaolin Soccer has been there for a few months. Go rent it, see it how it was meant to be seen. Don't give Miramax the money, send them the message that we don't like our films tampered with. It’s too late for Shaolin Soccer but we still might have time to save Jet Li's new magnus opus, Hero and countless other films. If we can't save it, just keep going back to the import section until they get the message. Taking my own advice, for the purposes of this review it’ll be the 117 min cut I will be reviewing. The real movie.
Shaolin Soccer begins with Golden Leg, the star of a Hong Kong soccer league. He finds out that one of his team members, Hung, has been accepting bribes and humiliates him. That day during his champion game he screws up and is crippled by a rabid fan. Years later he's a broken man, a drunk working for Hung, who now coaches the championship, but conspicuously named Team Evil. One day wandering around drunk and alone, he comes across a Shaolin Monk named Sing, begging on the street and sharing his utopian vision of a Kung Fu world with anyone who cares to listen. Golden Leg brushes him off until he sees Sing kick his beer can across town and into a solid brick wall. Then he has an inspiration: A Shaolin powered soccer team. Together Golden Leg and Sing must bring his five brothers together, each with a special Shaolin skill, and each having lost their way in society, and then get them to actually learn to play soccer.
In the meantime, Team Evil is also in training. Realizing the potential threat of a Shaolin powered team, they begin the use of "American performance enhancing drugs" to turn their players into super soldiers. Both teams enter the National Soccer tourney which gives a million dollar bounty to whoever wins.
Characters are Shaolin Soccer's saving grace. While some of them are little more then caricatures, we feel and care for each one, which guides us through the dizzying highs and lows the movie sends us on. There's a love story, between a scarred bakery worker named Mui, and Sing that is just sweet and real, with all the feelings of unrequited love brought into one patched up pair of shoes.
Shaolin Soccer literally does have something for everyone: Action, Drama, Sports, Love, Truly Hilarious Physical Comedy, Fantasy, Musical Numbers, Bruce Lee Funeral Homage, everything and anything you could possibly want. It’s about believing in your dreams, and yourself, and family, and true love, and all the other stuff I usually dismiss as sentimental tosh, served up on platter that is much too tempting for any film lover to ignore.
Of course Miramax has cut out a 1/4 of it, making sure that there is now nothing for nobody. So do yourself a favor. Prove to Harvey Weinstein that you're not an idiot. Go for the real Shaolin Soccer, not the sham that Miramax is trying to sell you.