Dragonball Evolution

     Japanese cartoons and comics have become very popular here in the States over the last couple of years. One of the most well-liked series is Dragon Ball created by Akira Toriyama during the 1980’s. Dragonball Evolution has a Hong Kong influence to it. Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle), famous actor from Hong Kong, is a producer and considered being the director for the project. Chow Yun-Fat, Hong Kong and international acting superstar, plays Master Roshi, a Mr. Miyagi type-character, in the movie. A role the late, great Pat Morita would have been more suited to play. Director James Wong wrote and directed The One staring Hong Kong martial arts superstar Jet Li. The result of all of this talent is a flop of a movie.

     Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds) plays Goku, a teenager bullied at school, but who is really a highly skilled martial artist thanks to the training he got from his Grandpa Gohan (Randall Duk Kim, Memories of a Geisha). With a name like Goku, don’t you expect to be picked on by the cool kids and jocks? As a birthday gift, Grandpa gives Justin a glowing red ball he calls a dragonball. There are only seven of these precious balls in existence and if a person has all seven balls, they are granted one wish by a dragon. Lord Piccolo (James Marsters, from TV’s Smallville), a green-skined alien, and Mai (Eriko Tamura, from TV’s Hereos), Piccolo’s hot looking female assassin, have come to Earth to collect the dragonballs and take over the world. After Grandpa Gohan is killed by Piccolo and Mai, with his last breath he tells Goku to get help from Master Roshi. Along the way, Bulma (Emmy Rossum, The Day After Tomorrow), her dragonball was stolen by Piccolo and Mai, and Yamcha (Joon Park, Speed Racer), a scam-artist, join forces with Goku and Master Roshi in trying to stop Piccolo and Mai’s evil plan. Jamie Chung plays Chi Chi, Goku’s girlfriend.

     The best part of Dragonball Evolution is that it is short. The running time is 84 minutes. Thankfully! The screenplay and characters, written by Ben Ramsey (The Big Hit), are silly and uninteresting. The special/visual effects, supervised by Joe Pancake (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) and Danny Braet (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) look like they belong in an episode of Charmed, instead of a major Hollywood movie. The martial arts coordinated by Jonathan Eusebio (The Bourne Ultimatum) are adequate, but lets hope he steps up his game for Iron Man 2.

     None of the performances by any of the leads stand out. The most disappointing was that of Chow Yu-Fat. He continues to play these over-the-top, corny characters like Captain Sao Feng from Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and Monk With No Name from Bulletproof Monk that make you forget he has won many best actor awards in Hong Kong.

     Young viewers and fans of the Dragon Ball series may enjoy Dragonball Evolution, but everyone else will be very happy when the ending credits begin to roll.

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