HKMDB Daily News

October 30, 2009

McDull Kung Fu Kindergarten (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , , — dleedlee @ 3:09 pm

McDull Kung Fu Kindergarten
Maidou xiangdangdang

(Animated — Hong Kong-China) A Shanghai Media Group, Sunwah Media, U’young (China)/Bliss Concepts (Hong Kong) presentation of a Famous Now Investments production. (International sales: Golden Network Asia, Hong Kong) Produced by Chen Liang, Zhao Jun, Brian Tse. Executive producers, Li Ruigang, Samuel Choy, Tse, Zhong Xiaoqiu. Directed, written by Brian Tse; story, Tse, Alice Mak.

Hong Kong’s most famous cartoon icon goes China in “McDull Kung Fu Kindergarten,” a welcome return to the franchise’s basics after the star-studded, only part-animated third entry, “McDull, the Alumni.” Though the least “Hong Kong” of the series — with the usual local in-jokes and linguistic wordplay virtually absent — this is the most marketable of the four to date, as well as a timely commentary on the onetime Brit colony’s cultural relationship with the mainland (where it did bonny biz this summer). Pic has enough charm to survive dubbing/rewriting into any language as an ancillary kidpleaser.

Writer-creator Brian Tse officially takes the directing helm for the first time, with co-creator Alice Mak again onboard. All other familiar elements are also in play, from the childlike but very clever irony of the narration (here spoken in fake-reverent tones by Huang Bo), through the non sequitur dialogue that always engenders some of the biggest smiles, to the delicate, watercolor-like backgrounds. The “McDull” series always has made a habit of concealing its artistry under a bushel, and here the switches between basic, almost naif 2D and swooping, spectacular 3D animation is handled without unnecessary grandstanding.

After a witty prologue describing a distant mainland ancestor of McDull, Maizi, who invented things like the first phone and rice cooker (but because there was no electricity at the time, they were useless), the pic spends a while — presumably for mainland auds coming to the series for the first time — introducing piggy-faced McDull (voiced by Zhang Zhengzhong) and his domineering mother and onetime TV chef, Mrs. McDull (Song Dandan), in Kowloon.

With McDull’s education stalled in Hong Kong (”He’s not mentally deficient, but he is good-hearted,” says a school report), his ambitious mom packs her bags and heads to China with her young son in tow. There, she dumps him in a mountain-top monastery in the Wudang Mountains to learn martial arts under Taoist teachers (Zhang Likun, Shao Yibei) while she looks to start a business in Shanghai.

However, life in a mainland monastery is tough for little McDull. On the verge of quitting, he decides to stay to take part in the Intl. Kindergarten Martial Arts Games.

With wordplay stripped out, Mrs. McDull is less of a motormouth, and the focus stays resolutely on tiny, terminally dumb McDull, a “typical” Hong Konger who’s basically only at home in Kowloon with his creature comforts. In one of several magical moments that Tse is so good at creating, the coda reasserts his separate identity in a strangely moving way.

For the record, the Cantonese version, released in Hong Kong with the official English title of “McDull Kungfu Ding Ding Dong,” was voiced by regulars Sandra Ng (as Mrs. McDull), Anthony Wong (Taoist coach) and Jim Chim (narrator).

Camera (color); music, Steve Ho; additional music, Ng Cheuk-yin; art director, Mak. Reviewed on DVD, London, Oct. 28, 2009. (In Pusan Film Festival, Ani-Asia.) Running time: 79 MIN.
Voices: Song Dandan, Huang Bo, Shao Yibei, Zhang Zhengzhong, Zhang Likun, Xie Haoxiao.
(Mandarin dialogue)

Powered by WordPress