A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shaolin Soccer is a 2001 sports comedy in which a ragtag group of soccer and martial arts misfits join forces to create a winning soccer team. The movie has some comic violence and crude humor, including a scene of a man peeing on a wall, and another man vomiting. There's some action/fantasy violence, and characters are wounded. While much of the violence is exaggerated for the sake of comedy and/or action, scenes of players getting legs broken by cheating rival teams also occur. Characters smoke and drink, and there's a reference to "American drugs," which are performance-enhancing drugs injected into one of the rival teams. A character mentions suicide as a response to humiliation. There's a joke about being in love with a married woman. A character removes his pants (off camera) and makes another character wear his underpants on his head to humiliate him. Profanity includes "s--t," "hell."
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What's the story?
When former soccer superstar "Golden Leg" Fung sees Sing demonstrating Shaolin in the streets, he realizes the guy has what it takes to be a great soccer player. Sing (Stephen Chow) dreams of a world based on the principles of Shaolin. He realizes that becoming a soccer champion by using Shaolin techniques could bring his message to the masses. So, Sing agrees to help Fung start a team, and they invite Sing's brothers to form a team to play SHAOLIN SOCCER. At first, they suffer humiliating defeat. When they register for the big tournament, the owner of Fung's arch-nemesis team, Team Evil, laughs at them. But then the games begin. The Shaolin team's magical leaps and kicks bring them to the final round, where they must face Team Evil. But when the goalie is injured, who will replace him?
Is it any good?
The most successful Hong Kong film ever, this is a very traditional underdog sports team story told in a delightfully nontraditional style, with whimsy, fantasy, and heart. Shaolin Soccer is pure silly fun with such wonderful spirit that even the dumbest jokes and most predictable developments seem brighter.
The film's visual imagination and effervescent good spirits are pure delight. A group of Chinese people spontaneously break into a dance number to the Kool and the Gang song "Celebration." Soccer players fly through the sky and kick the ball the length of the field. A sweet bun maker (that is, a sweet maker of sweet buns) uses kung fu to mix the flour and gets fired when the buns get sour after her tears fall into the batter. And the hero tells the heroine she is beautiful before her makeover.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "underdog" movies. How does Shaolin Soccer compare to other movies in which characters who don't fit in or seem destined to lose to their seemingly more skilled or talented rivals find a way to emerge victorious? Why do these movies have such appeal across a wide variety of styles and genres?
What were the ways in which violence was used in this movie for the sake of comedy, for action, and for the story itself? What would be lost without the exaggerated displays of violence?
What would be different if this movie had been made in Hollywood instead of Hong Kong? How would the comedy be different? The violence? The characters and story?
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