from GETZVILLE, NY
Reviewed on 8/2/2013...
Kung Fu Arts
1980 / Color / 88 minutes
The generic title gives no sense that this movie has elements of Chinese traditional fairy tale, historical costume drama, and jungle movie. It's also misleading since it has precious little kung fu and what little there is is ho-hum. Does anything recommend it? Well, as a guy who see redeeming features in movies everybody seems to dislike -- Robert Altman's Popeye and Donny DeVito's Death to Smoochy, to name two of dozens -- I will give it a try.
The female lead, who plays a princess, is wonderful to look it. Her face is loving, tender, determined, smart, patient -- a face one could look at all day. Too bad I can't figure out what her stage name is. After a series of untoward events, the princess has to marry a monkey. The scene where she and the lucky chimp-husband leave town on a boat is nicely shot, with vibrant colors and costumes, and is wonderfully sad and moving. Really, far beyond the usual melodramatic, operatic treatment of emotion in a kung-fu movie. If about thirty seconds of film is persuasive enough to see it, go for it.
The humor is twisted. The scene of the wedding between the princess and the monkey is played straight but is so achingly silly I laughed so much I almost broke a rib and stopped breathing. Anyway, time goes by and the princess has a man-kid. The implications are staggering enough -- the wedding night doesn't bear thinking about -- such that even the father of the boy asks, "He moves and climbs like a monkey. Am I the father of the boy or is it the monkey."
In an outhouse, a guard's bare butt is bitten by a monkey, which causes him to flee is terror, yelling, "He's bitten off my wedding tackle." Noting the Australian slang, I should add that the voices of the various guards and hangers-on talk Australian, which seem riotously appropriate to the characters.
Another funny scene is when the king's men are begging on their knees, imploring an escaping monkey to return a banner. The monkey is billed as "Sida, the French Monkey Star." I can only figure that it's a sordid world where we can figure out the real name of Uncle Monkey, but not that of the human female lead.
So, the lack of fighting will not please kung fu fans. The lack of good acting and sensible story will not please movie fans with standards. I liked it for the princess, the lame jokes, the costuming, the sets, and the spirit of sheer nonsense that permeates the production. High tolerance for weirdness will be a must.