Hilarious, hyper and madder than a bottle of herrings, Stephen Chow's chopsocky sports comedy is finally in cinemas after a lengthy stay on the dusty shelves of Miramax. During its time in chokey, Harvey Scissorhands has given the movie a good going-over - - a shave, a haircut, a decent English-language dub - - and the result is as rough-edged and frantic as a lunchtime five-a-side match. Hong Kong purists can hunt down Chow's original on DVD import, but why bother? This isn't the sort of film that deserves or needs the kind of cultural reverence commanded by, say, Zhang Yimou's Hero. Told in a knockabout style complete with freewheeling flashbacks, kung-fu lifestyle tips and impromptu dance numbers, Shaolin Soccer is Bruce Lee meets Beckham with a liberal sprinkling of Matrix stunts. The outstanding soccer sequences alone are reason enough to put down your cash, the rules of physics a mere annoyance in these insanely staged grudge games. Strikers bounce across the turf like gazelles, goalkeepers spontaneously combust and penalty kicks plough furrows of fire across the pitch. The action is composed with a palette of day-glo pink and pea-green that reinforces the chintzy feel.
Elsewhere, the humour veers between parody and slapstick and occasionally strays into mean-spirited and laddish territory, while the team's coach, Golden Leg Fung (Man Tat Ng), is an obsequious cultural stereotype who soon becomes tiresome. But these are small niggles in a gloriously stupid experience.
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With bigger balls than Wimbledon and a heart to match, Shaolin Soccer delivers exactly what it promises: a mainline rush of silly footie fun.