Kung Fu Hustle
2005
Sing (Stephen Chow) is a mobster in 1940s China who longs to be as cool as the formally clad Axe Gang, a band of killers who rule Hong Kong's streets. But Sing is so awkward he can't possibly aspire to be one of them, so he does the next best thing: pretend. His shenanigans, unfortunately, land him in a barrel of trouble with everyone, including the unassuming farmers who till the land, setting off fireworks of massive proportions.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Seeing this film and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” so close together proved to me what I’d always suspected about that most damnable trait of a bad movie: Cartoonishness. Tyler Perry’s earnest drama wants us to take its characters seriously and be moved by them, but it fails because they’re plastic people existing in a sitcom-like cartoon reality. On the other hand, “Kung Fu Hustle” knows it’s a cartoon and deliriously embraces this trait, using CGI to escalate its martial-arts silliness to Looney Tunes extremes. At first the antics were mildly annoying, but it didn’t take long for the film’s high spirits to win me over, and by the end I was giddy with excitement at each new trick Stephen Chow managed to pull out of his hat. This is a movie for people who see a lot of movies, who love not being able to predict what crazy idea the filmmakers will come up with next, who enjoy a movie most when it is a labor of love rather than a commercial work made for the opening-weekend box office. Chow and his talented cast and crew, most particularly the CGI artists who stretch his characters out like old Plastic Man cartoons, had the time of their lives making this delightful wonder, and their fun is infectious as you watch it. It’s light-hearted, hallucinatory fun, a parade of increasingly clever sight gags and double-takes, and it’s some of the most fun you can have at the movies this year. Don’t miss it.

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