Oolong Courtyard: Kung Fu School (2018)

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The director of the Shaolin Popey films returns to familiar territory with this cute and funny film that makes the film debut of the Japanese “mini Bruce Lee”, Ryusei Imai.

Wei is a con artist who likes to fake accidents in order to force anyone to compensate him. However, when he is caught by another con artist in Cheng Mingxing, the duo decide to reluctantly team up to fake accidents. However, they make the major mistake of forcing a young woman to compensate only to learn she is the girlfriend of local gangster Brother Blast, who has failed to hire two goons to infiltrate a kung fu temple to retrieve a rare treasure. When Wei and Liang are confronted by Blast, he makes them an offer they will be unable to refuse.

Wei and Mingxing are hired to enter the kung fu temple run by Abbot Chang Mei, who has been at the place for more than thirty years. At first the duo are denied entry, but Chang Mei as well as second master Liang allow them in the temple. Things don’t go as planned for the duo as they find themselves constantly attempting to find the treasure only to be thwarted. However, as they continue their training, Wei finds his ex-girlfriend Lucy and she soon finds him as an inspiration for Wei to eventually do what is right. However, Blast, tiring of waiting, decides to launch an attack on the temple to get what he wants.

From Taiwanese director Kevin Chu, the man behind so many martial arts orientated action and comedies in this three-plus decade career, this is a hilarious homage to his 1994 hit Shaolin Popey with shades of Kung Fu Hustle. While Ng Man-Tat has had a falling out with longtime collaborator Stephen Chow after being unable to appear in the latter, he makes it up in a funny way as the Abbot of the temple, who shows that his comic wit has barely lost a step. And speaking of Shaolin Popey, playing one of the elder students is the former child star of that very film, Hao Shao Wen. There are some fun flashbacks involving Ng and his former students who just bring more laughs out, but nothing compares to young Yao Yao, who plays the cute 4-year old student with the infectious giggle.

However, the main plot of the story involves two bumbling con men, hilariously played by Wang Ning and Kong Lianshun, whose brand of humor can be said to be emulated by Stephen Chow and Lam Tze-Chung’s characters in Kung Fu Hustle. The two showcase the goofy “mo lei tau” style Chow was known for. There are some shades of that film with the goofy antics expected in these kung fu comedies. One of the funniest bits involves Bao, a senior instructor at the school who isn’t exactly an expert but brings hilarious bits especially with his interactions with our lead character Wei. The chemistry between Song Xiaobiao and Wang is hilarious with their scenes together.

There does come two big surprises in the film. One is the appearance of Hong Kong veteran Eric Tsang as the film’s villain in Brother Blast. He wasn’t featured in any of the trailers so it is a welcome surprise to see him in the film. However, the major surprise comes in the form of young Ryusei Imai, who went viral with his near perfect emulation of the legendary Bruce Lee. He plays one of the students of the temple and the film allows him to shine not only with his training scenes but he is given one full fight scene in the climactic battle which has Blast’s thugs force their way into the temple.

Oolong Courtyard: Kung Fu School is a fun family-orientated kung fu comedy that is mostly driven on its comedy, but for some reason, it works well. As a bonus, seeing “mini Bruce” Ryusei Imai is quite a joy as well as Yao Yao’s infectious laughter bringing cuteness to the film.

WFG RATING: B+

China Lion and Hengye Pictures presents a Beijing Herdsmen Pictures production in association with Perect Sky Pictures, Beijing Bofang Culture Media Co. Ltd, and Shanghai SMG Pictures Co. Ltd. DirectorL Kevin Chu. Producers: Andy Chen and Tony Liu.

Cast: Wang Ning, Kong Lianshun, Wang Zhi, Ng Man-Tat, Liang Chao, Hao Shao-Wen, Song Xiaobiao, Zhang Zidong, Yao Yao, Ryusei Imai, Eric Tsang.

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