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McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong
McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong

McDull and his new pal Brother Panda in McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong.
AKA: McDull Wudang
AKA: McDull, Kung Fu Kindergarten
Chinese: 麥兜粛噹噹
Year: 2009  
Director: Brian Tse  
Producer: Brian Tse
Writer: Brian Tse, Alice Mak
Voices: Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jim Chim Sui-Man, Wan Kwong, Kwok Kwan-Yin, Ip Sum-Yee, The Pancakes
The Skinny: The most coherent McDull yet, McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong doesn't quite reach the heights of the first two McDull films. Nevertheless, the film channels the same local satire, identifiable emotions and bittersweet affection for Hong Kong that the series is known for. A step up from McDull, the Alumni. Really, it's hard to fault any movie with an animated pig and panda.
by Kozo:

That lovable little pig with the low IQ, McDull returns in the long-awaited McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong. Formerly known as McDull Wudang among other names, this long-in-production sequel supplies the same stuff that the previous animated McDull movies did – a love of Hong Kong culture, abundant local satire, identifiable emotions, and simply the resigned feeling that it's okay to live an average life. That last message sounds like a total downer, and in some ways the previous McDull movies were. However, both My Life as McDull and McDull, Prince de la Bun gave that message a strange and affectionate nobility, making an average or below-average life seem sad, pathetic and yet worthy and sublime. If there's a definitive list of films that represent Hong Kong, the McDull movies would surely be on it.

McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong would be on that list too, perhaps a few notches below the previous two films, but still above the 2006 animated/live-action combo McDull, the Alumni. Brian Tse, writer-producer of the previous animated McDull films, takes over as director, once again spotlighting young McDull (voiced by Kwok Kwan-Yin), who lives in Tai Kok Tsui with his mother Mrs. Mak (voiced by Sandra Ng). However, the mother-son relationship – so central to the previous two McDulls - is given less focus this time, as is Hong Kong. After some opening narration from Jim Chim, plus some scenes at McDull's school, McDull and Mrs. Mak hightail it for China, where Mrs. Mak hopes to find new opportunities (like opening her dream restaurant, called "Chicken on Fire") plus escape her debts. But she can't do this with McDull always at her side, so after reaching the Wuhan region she drops him off at a martial arts school in the famed Wudang Mountains. Curiously, the Master of the school looks just like McDull's principal at the Springfield Kindergarten, complete with balding pate and mustache, and even shares the same voice actor in Anthony Wong.

No, the Master is not the Principal's twin brother. As seen in the previous McDull films, lots of people all over Hong Kong look just like the Principal. Also, the Master's assistant looks like McDull's teacher Miss Chan (and is again voiced by singer-songwriter The Pancakes), and even his animal friends Fai, Goosie, Darby, etc., have analogues up in the Wudang Mountains. This use of doppelgangers is just one of the metaphorical things that the McDull movies do, and indeed it's part of the series' charm. It's also a way of making McDull's world familiar to us, and it's needed as things have changed a bit. Urban Renewal has taken hold in McDull's home district of Tai Kok Tsui, replacing most of the old and rundown local buildings with glistening high-rise housing estates, and China and Hong Kong are now further intertwined. Things are supposedly changing for the better – and that's what McDull and Mrs. Mak try to do too, through emigration to China, latching onto trends, or simply chasing that one idea in hopes that it'll lead them to prosperity. But with each effort comes routine failure, and the resilience that Hong Kong people show in the face of this is part and parcel of the McDull movies' affectionate, satirical look at modern life.

The previous McDull films took similar themes and ran with them, frequently sacrificing coherence for scattered vignettes and minor gags that were so layered that even some of the films' target audience might have been lost. Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong still possesses some of the McDull movies' trademark density, but it also proves the most coherent and conventional of the films. Once McDull ends up in the Wudang Mountains, he makes new friends (including Brother Panda, the mysterious guardian panda bear), gets involved in mischief around the school and learns a few lessons about devotion, responsibility and giving things your best. The central part of the film is reminiscent of a typical animated film for tykes – it’s got positive lessons and seems to follow a solid, even cliched story. That portion is still enjoyable and entertaining – after all, how can you go wrong with animated pigs, turtles and pandas – but a little of the McDull magic is lost. Despite its general effectiveness, the film's central narrative is really not novel, and anyway, McDull films have always been more about feeling than nuts-and-bolts story. Ultimately, seeing little McDull go through standard narrative paces feels a bit off.

What's not off? Just about everything else. Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong is still plenty about Hong Kong, with references to actual locations, local media and other cultural institutions. The characters' amusing preoccupation with eating and pooping is back, and the satire on modern Hong Kong life is delightfully fun. Besides the references to Urban Renewal, Mrs. Mak auditions for a menopause medicine commercial that satirizes a local Nancy Sit ad, plus she seems to follow all the latest trends (e.g., Hong Kong's omnipresent "slimming" beauty business) in hopes of making her fortune. McDull's is enrolled in a private school that uses the experimental "Mozart Effect" (where tykes listen to Mozart to spur their development), but is unfortunately made the "control" in the experiment – simultaneously making fun of Hong Kong's consumer education culture and providing a reason for McDull's dim-wittedness. Also, on a technical level, this is easily the best McDull film, with animation improved and the contrast of hand-drawn characters against the CGI city backdrops proving less intrusive.

The film's China portions allow for rural backdrops that are as well realized as the McDull films' signature renderings of Hong Kong. There's also plenty of satire and cultural love there too; the film makes fun of Bruce Lee and martial arts, and rewrites classic Chinese songs with new, sometimes off-color lyrics sung by famous local singer Wan Kwong (who also provides one of the film's voices). One flashback sequence even re-imagines the famous painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival (known informally as the Chinese Mona Lisa) for a sequence featuring McDull's ancestor McFat. An inventor who was unfortunately way ahead of his time, McFat is another metaphorical nugget for audiences to chew on; sometimes in life, a complete ne'er do well like McFat or even McDull could end up doing something great - he just might not be around to see it, and may live his natural life as average or even less. In offering that theme and more, Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong manages a familiar affection towards the simple, unglamorous life that most of us are destined for. That emotion is pure McDull, and reason enough to warrant the film similar, if not the same regard as McDull's lovely and bittersweet first adventures. (Kozo, 2009)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
DVD + AVCD Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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