Orphaned as a baby, Fang Shijie grows up to be exceptionally talented in both Kung Fu and basketball. He meets down-on-his-luck hustler, Zhen Li in a park after displaying his skills and his new friend sees an opportunity to make money. Following a fight in a casino, Shijie is promptly expelled from his Kung Fu school, but when Zhen Li enrolls him onto college basketball team, ‘First University’, he sees where his potential truly lies. A few false starts are followed by the team reaching the finals and facing off against the notoriously aggressive ‘Fire Balls’.

Kung Fu Dunk (2008) – Director: Yen-Ping Chu

Is Kung Fu Dunk appropriate for kids

Rating: 12 (Netflix) / 15 (Lovefilm)

Running Length: 94 mins

Starring: Jay Chou, Eric Tsang, Charlene Choi

Genre: Martial Arts, Sport, Comedy

 

REVIEW

If you’re looking for a fun-filled, action-packed comedy, then look no further. ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ has been likened to martial arts comedies such as ‘Shaolin Soccer’ and ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ but where the other movies tend to rely more on super-human abilities, ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ manages to keep the action realistic (with the exception of one short scene) while ensuring that the comedy elements stay firmly tongue in cheek. The songs, which are clearly meant to be comical but also seem to have been poorly translated into English, are worth paying attention to while the action is happening on-screen.

Jay Chou is believable as the innocent but uninterested hero, Shijie and his desire to be reunited with his parents adds a touch of genuine emotion to an otherwise daft comedy movie. While not exactly being an example of high-brow cinema, the inoffensiveness and fun of ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ is entertaining for anyone who enjoys a good laugh without the need for complex storytelling or drama. We personally feel that, even though ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ has been rated 12 by the BBFC and on Netflix (and bizarrely, a 15 on LOVEFiLM), this movie could have easily been a PG rated film. There is very little in terms of questionable content and should be appropriate for most children under the age of 12 (indeed it is likely to be very appealing to under 12’s!).

IS ‘KUNG FU DUNK’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

There are a few mild instances of content which parents of young children may feel the need to be aware of. These include a baby crying and being very distressed. This is the opening scene which describes how Shijie was found by a homeless man. The boy is then given to a kung fu school to be raised properly and, as a child of around 8 years old, he sees his master die by being frozen due to trying to a master complicated form of kung-fu. This is quite surprising as there is no lead-up to the death but it is handled without too much distress. Later, when the character of Zhen Li is introduced, he persuades Shijie to be his friend by challenging him to throw a coin into his mouth from a long distance. When he does this, Zhen Li chokes and Shijie has to hit him on the back to get the coin out.

The captain of ‘First University’ basketball team is an alcoholic and is seen to drink beer from cans and an unknown liquor from a hipflask. He is seen to suffer some effects of this, mostly tiredness and sweating, but is not chastised at all and his talent does not seem particularly affected by his drinking.

There is a brief sexual reference in the dialogue when a ‘bad’ character is taunting the team captain and trying to distract him. This character, who has previously been introduced as someone who the team dislike, boasts that he has slept with the captain’s girlfriend by saying ‘I was “on top” of your girlfriend’ and ‘ooh, she was good’. However, there are no other references like this in the dialogue throughout the movie. As these lines are brief and not too obvious in their meaning, we feel that younger children are unlikely to understand them and any child who does understand is unlikely to be adversely affected.

There are also a few emotional moments in ‘Kung Fu Dunk’. Due to the nature of Shijie’s story of being an orphan there are a few moments where he feels the emotional impact of his situation, especially as he hopes to be reunited with them. At one point, a letter is received from them and the accompanying music makes this a short but sad moment. The ending scenes of the movie are very touching and these heart-warming moments may be a little emotional for children. Another scene involves a character standing in a graveyard and he is shown to have memories of a girl, the implication being that she was his girlfriend and that she died. The next scene shows another character confessing her love for him but he rebuffs her (with tears rolling down his face), explaining that he is unable to love anyone else. Again, these scenes are short and there is no other mention of these events throughout the rest of the movie so any upset caused here is likely to be short-lived.

Some of the violence is a little brutal although there is no blood or gore. When Shijie is being punished at his kung fu school, he is beaten by several other students with clubs. This is quite a sustained attack, lasting a couple of minutes, and could be a little distressing for younger viewers. The captain of the Fire Ball team attacks some of First University’s best players by beating them and stamping on their arms or legs and another is hit hard on the leg with a baseball bat. While the injured players are seen to be in pain, the injuries caused are not overly graphic. Another character throws acupuncture style needles at a rival team in order to distract them. The needles are seen to hit (piercing in places like the neck and hands) and cause a little distress but these moments aren’t lingered upon and the characters are fine shortly after.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

While having many flaws in its plot and several confusing moments, ‘Kung Fu Dunk’ has clearly not been designed to be taken too seriously but rather enjoyed as an entertaining, fun and light-hearted martial arts comedy. We feel that this film should be appropriate for children aged 8 and over depending on their sensibilities towards the violence and how the adult supervising them feels about the sexual reference in the dialogue.

  • Violence:  3/5 (mostly typical martial arts choreography. There are a few stronger moments when the characters are on the basketball court)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (some regarding Shijie’s parents who abandoned him as a baby and one reference to a death which affects one of the characters)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (a character is seen to move through time and runs through a vortex-like tunnel surrounded by animated clouds, this scene culminates in him running through the mouth of an animated scary face)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5       
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (some mild cursing and blasphemy. A song in English is used when one character is introduced and there may be a strong word in the lyrics, however the word was so muffled that although we viewed this part several times, we are unable to confirm this for sure!)
  • Dialogue: 1/5    
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of abandonment, teamwork, humility and understanding what is important in life.

Words by Laura Record

 

Kung Fu Dunk [DVD]


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