By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 30, 2004 at 5:06 AM

{image1}Huge in Asia, "Shaolin Soccer," the 2001 film by Hong Kong writer and director Stephen Chow won't likely do big box office in the USA. And that's a shame because although they should have used a big ball of cheese instead of a regular soccer ball, this wacky film is charming and funny in its own "Airplane!"-like way.

Part farce, part parody of martial arts movie, part send up on Hollywood productions and music video dance scenes, "Shaolin Soccer," is about just what you think it should be, based on its title: a winning combination of kung fu and footie.

Where "Bend It Like Beckham" was corny in often embarassing ways, "Shaolin Soccer" is corny in a funny way, because -- unlike its Brit-flick sister -- "Shaolin Soccer" knows it's silly and revels in it.

Sing is a kung fu master reduced to collecting cans on the street to be able to eat. When he meets Golden Leg, a former football star who has been fired by the same ex-player that was responsible for his career-changing and life-altering injury, the two find common ground in their desire to make their lives better.

They stumble upon the idea of fusing kung fu and kicking and create an unlikely squad that seems unbeatable, despite the fact that it's made up of an overweight overeater, a meek and pot-bellied older pal and a similar band of neer-do-wells.

But they are all kung fu masters with specific skills that have useful applications on the soccer pitch and when they enter a tournament, they tear up the field until they meet some hard opponents, the team of that nasty player-turned-soccer-exec that ruined Golden Leg's career. Now, it's personal.

There's a romantic subplot that's as cheesy as the rest, but, again, the film never takes itself too seriously and when it's not drop-dead funny, it's groaningly queer or mildly sweet.

Apparently, Miramax chopped a good 20 minutes from the film for American release, including entire subplots, so it's hard to say if this version fulfils the director's vision, but nevertheless, it's a light-hearted film that will offer a nice counterpoint to the screen's more serious fare.

"Shaolin Soccer" is out now on DVD and video, with both the original cut and the American edit.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.