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  Kung Fu Wonderchild wacky ways of kung fu
Year: 1986
Director: Lee Tso Nam
Stars: Lin Hsiao Lan, Yukari Oshima, Hsuan Chen
Genre: Comedy, Martial Arts, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: An evil sorcerer (Hsuan Chen) is out to take over the Martial world. We know he’s evil because he sports a cape and does the trademark villain’s laugh: head back, hands on hips, “Ah-ha-hah!” You know the score. Aided by a hopping vampire (Those not familiar with Chinese hopping vampires rent Mr. Vampire (1985) immediately) and a kung fu zombie, our fiend imprisons a rival sorcerer and his daughter inside clay jars, and proceeds to drain their essence. A courageous kung fu maiden (Yukari Oshima) sets out to rescue her father and sister, but not before tackling the, oddly sympathetic, vampire and his cute, vampire kids.

Oshima is one of the most gifted screen fighters of all time. Her spectacular legwork is a wonder to behold, but she’s only the supporting turn. The main star here is cult Taiwanese actress Lin Hsiao Lan, dubbed with a fey male voice, as the titular hero Kung Fu Wonderchild. Oshima’s maiden befriends the Wonderchild and his spell-slinging grandfather, at a Hogwart’s style school for mystical martial arts. The heroes, aided by a bumbling, comic relief duo, discover the supervillain is actually the school’s head teacher in disguise, and face an outlandish array of threats: talking skeletons, blond wigged henchmen, face huggers ripped off from Alien (1979), and a rather nifty, cell animated dragon, before the explosive finale.

Kung Fu Wonderchild has wonderful ingredients, but slack direction robs the film of momentum. Early scenes of comedic antics are a chore to sit through, essentially a series of vignettes where practical jokes are played on the school bully, while Wonderchild and friends giggle on the sidelines. Hardened kung fu fans expecting a straightforward revenge and bloodshed picture are in for a shock. This is a children’s film. Nothing wrong with that, but the procession of breast gags, fart jokes, dog piss, and bare buttocks offers little wit in comparison to Yuen Woo Ping’s Miracle Fighters (1982) or the lighter moments of Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983). Things pick up considerably for the climactic battle. A riot of wire fu, laser beams, bamboo bazookas, impressive prosthetic effects and the aforementioned cartoon dragon. However, the finale is unexpectedly tragic and needlessly downbeat (Something surprisingly common in Hong Kong/Taiwanese children’s films).

Almost everyone involved here has done better work. Lin Hsiao Lan played variations on Wonderchild in a series of extravagant fantasies, the best of which is the delirious Magic of Spell (1988). Yukari Oshima’s formidable fight skills graced cult favorites Angel (1988) and Beauty Investigator (1992). And Lee Tso Nam directed the amazing Challenge of the Lady Ninja (1984) where kung fu girls in miniskirts and go-go boots battle transvestite samurais during World War Two! Lovers of Chinese fantasy will find some things to cherish in Kung Fu Wonderchild (The vampire single parent is a hoot!), but casual viewers will be less impressed.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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