Apparently jealous over the fact that Paramount’s Pootie Tang beat out their Freddy Got Fingered as the worst comedy of 2001, 20th Century Fox makes an early bid for that honor in 2002 with Kung Pow: Enter the Fist — and they have done themselves proud. This may not only be 2002’s worst comedy, but the worst film of any kind. Movies such as Pootie Tang and Freddy Got Fingered are merely adolescent. Kung Pow: Enter the Fist — despite a title suggestive of a very specialized kind of film for … uh … very specialized viewers — is positively infantile. When I asked the teenaged doorman if he’d seen the film and if it was as bad as I imagined and was told, “It’s probably worse than you imagine,” I knew I was settling in for something pretty grim. Writer-director-producer-star (never a good sign unless it’s Charlie Chaplin or Woody Allen) Steve Oedekerk apparently labors under the delusion that he is Allen. (In point of fact, he’s not even Adam Sandler.) He has tried to follow an early Allen example: In 1966, Allen took a bad Japanese spy movie, recut it and redubbed it, grafting on a plot about a mad search for the world’s best egg-salad recipe , calling the results What’s Up, Tiger Lily?. Oedederk has taken a 1976 martial-arts flick called Tiger and Crane Fists, recut it, redubbed it (mostly using his own voice — this may be the ultimate vanity project), and then, leaping ahead to Allen’s Zelig, digitally incorporated himself — and other things — into the proceedings. Technically, it’s mildly impressive. On every other level, it’s about three or four jokes stretched out to 82 minutes of screen time. Sure, the intentionally bad dubbing is funny — for about three minutes. After that, it’s downhill all the way, and looks like something Saturday Night Live would reject on its worst day. Oedekerk plays The Chosen One — a wandering martial-arts whiz with a singular peculiarity that marks him as The Chosen One: His tongue boasts eyes and a little mouth and he calls this appendage “Toungie.” Do I really need to go any further? Probably not, but since I sat through this morass of mediocrity, I will. Actually, “Toungie” provides one of the film’s few laughs, when a martial arts master (Chen Hui Lo) sees the thing and asks, “What in God’s name is that?” Never mind that he already appears to know it’s the mark of The Chosen One, it’s still the funniest moment in the movie. It’s much more difficult to catalogue all the stupefyingly unfunny things in the movie. Oedekerk is under the illusion that any non-sequitur is good for a laugh — and it might be, if you’re in a group of friends and none of you are quite sober, but here it’s another matter. The exact humor to be found in dubbing, “See if there’s a Radio Shack around here,” into the mouth of a character for no apparent reason escapes me. The few things that occasionally do work are, of course, either beaten into the ground or ruined by Oedekerk’s obsession with being a cinematic one-man band and doing most of the voices. Despite the technical impressiveness of putting Oedekerk into the old footage, the movie is amazingly slipshod. Since the martial-arts film was shot in widescreen, it necessitated Kung Pow being in the “scope” format, too. But when the film required stock shots of squirrels (don’t ask), no one bothered finding the appropriate format and, as a result, there are several seconds of badly distorted stock footage spliced into the movie! However, it’s moments like these that make you marvel at Kung Pow’s very existence and provide some distraction. The fact that the movie would have been impossible to make without the advent of computerized technology is enough to make even the most progressive-minded among us consider taking up the calling of the Luddite.
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