REVIEW: DVD Release: Jackie Chan & The Kung Fu Kid

Film: Jackie Chan & The Kung Fu Kid
Release date: 9th August 2010
Certificate: 12
Running time: 85 mins
Director: Gangliang Fang & Ping Jiang
Starring: Yishan Zhang, Jackie Chan, Qixing Aisin-gioro, Bing Bai, Guo Ke-yu
Genre: Martial Arts/Drama/Family/Action
Studio: Kaleidoscope
Format: DVD
Country: China

Originally and more accurately titled Looking For Jackie, this 2009 Chinese family comedy has been retitled for its UK release in a cynical attempt to cash-in on Jackie Chan’s recent Karate Kid remake. But with little screen time for the martial arts legend, does the film offer enough elsewhere to placate fans angry at being duped into picking up this DVD?

The story begins in Indonesia, with 15-year-old Zhang Yishan (played by a young TV actor of the same name) performing badly at school, showing no aptitude for Chinese language or culture, and being barely bullied by his classmates as a result. His problem? An obsession with every 15-year-old boy’s favourite kung fu hero, Jackie Chan. His solution? To track down Jackie Chan and become his protégé (obviously). Yishan has the chance to make this dream a reality when he learns that Jackie is working on a new film in Beijing.

So, under the pretence of going to visit his stereotypically strict grandparents, he hits the road. Unfortunately for Yishan, he really isn‘t all that clever. Arriving at the wrong destination several times, he eventually endeavours to fall a little foul of a family of thieves with a tragic history.

As these various obstacles and distractions threaten to derail his pilgrimage, the promise of meeting Jackie and finding some manner of personal development seems further and further away…

Jackie Chan & The Kung Fu Kid is, at best, likely to leave fans feeling short changed, given that he only appears for a few minutes at the beginning and the end. In a similar vein, whilst he does briefly show off his martial arts skills, for the most part his role is to provide advice and guidance to the not overly troublesome Yishan, telling him to respect his elders and try harder at school. The film features no martial arts training whatsoever, with our hero’s journey coming across as a pointless and meandering one that mainly just depicts him blundering around and encountering a series of decent, everyday people, who are patient enough to help him on his way. Even the ‘bullying’ aspects of the film, and his ‘dramatic’ run in with the family of criminals are underplayed, with no obvious violent, threatening or traumatic overtones.
As such, the film comes across as one long after school special - essentially a lecture, and whilst most people will certainly agree that Yishan needs a good shake to wake him, spending an hour-and-a-half waiting to find out if he’ll settle down and study hard like a good Chinese boy may be a bit of a stretch.

The film was directed by Jiang Ping and Fang Gangliang (Home Run) and has the distinct feel of being made for television. It’s full of awkward, static camera set ups and incredibly unnecessary editing effects. Also, for no apparent reason, Ping and Gangliang feel the need to constantly throw in some very out of place moments of slow motion and speeded up action, all of which only serves to leave the viewer with a vaguely amateurish impression.

What action scenes that do feature are woefully handled and clumsily displayed, and the only real appeasement for fans of the martial arts genre will be found in spotting some of Jackie Chan’s old sparring partners such as Yuen Wah or Yuen Wu. Any fleeting satisfaction gleaned from face spotting is quickly washed away again by the tide of tedium, however.

A little research shows that Jackie Chan & The Kung Fu Kid was certainly a hit at the domestic box office, setting a new record for local children and family friendly productions. The film is not unwatchable and there is some ironic fun to be had, mostly due to its stiff lipped and po-faced tone. However, for anyone expecting to see much of Jackie Chan, martial arts action in general, or even an engaging ‘rights of passage’ tale about one boy’s journey into manhood, will be left disappointed. PD

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