Dragonball Evolution

Dragonball Evolution


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

What would you do if you had just one wish?

Goku, an awkward teenager living with his grandfather in an unnamed American town, wishes for a lot of things. He wishes he were normal. He wishes he were allowed to fight the school bullies. He wishes the beautiful Chi Chi (Jamie Chung) would notice him. Despite the old man's insistence that he needs to have faith in himself, he wishes he were someone else.

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The demon Piccolo wishes for only one thing - to unleash the destroyer and wreak his revenge upon the Earth. To make his wish come true, he needs the aid of a mighty dragon which can only be summoned when the blood moon eclipses the sun, by the person who controls all seven of the legendary dragonballs.

If these two worlds seem to fit together rather awkwardly, that's nothing to the overall awkwardness of a film which tries to stick closely to the Manga fans love and yet make itself legible to newcomers, failing on both counts. Young lead Justin Chatwin, having a permanent bad hair day, is pretty fly for a white guy when it comes to throwing qi around but bumbles through the rest of the action like a High School Musical reject and handles emotional scenes as if they're gurning competitions. His sidekick Bulma (Emmy Rossum), a supposed academic, brings Valley girl vacuity to what should have been a strong independent character, and comedy sidekick Yamcha (Joon Park) is even worse. But then we get Chow Yun Fat as the wise Master Roshi, and he's watchable as always, plainly enjoying himself, a strong centre to bring the team together - if only our focus weren't supposed to be on Goku.

Goku is the chosen one, you see - it's one of those. Steel yourself for a Luke and Darth style showdown at the end. On this level the plot is so utterly formulaic that following it is easy, even with what seems to be a long sequence missing from the middle (how do they suddenly get from the desert to a volcano?) This helps, because the larger plot is nonsensical, and the scriptwriters have worked hard to draw out all the Manga's cheesiest moments. As for Piccolo, we can tell he's evil because he has a green rubber face. He's played by James Marsters - Spike from Buffy - who appears to be asleep behind the mask.

If all this makes Dragonball Evolution sound like an unmitigated disaster, take heart. There's actually a good deal to enjoy here, even if it wasn't intended that way. Many of the lines are so awful that you'll be in hysterics, and the clumsiness of the characters is rather endearing. Everything zips along at a fair pace and the film doesn't overstay its welcome. In fact, it's surprisingly easy to feel carried along by it. Some of the action is a bit of a let down, with poor continuity work, fights we can't see properly and deadly monsters disposed of far too quickly, but in other places the film spiritedly packs in Manga action cliches in a way that's lots of fun to watch. As with the series, the trick is not to take it too seriously.

Reviewed on: 09 Apr 2009
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Dragonball Evolution packshot
A young warrior goes on a quest to collect magical orbs in order to save the world.
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Director: James Wong

Writer: Ben Ramsey, based on the Manga by Akira Toriyama

Starring: Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, James Marsters, Joon Park, Eriko Tamura, Randall Duk Kim, Ernie Hudson, Texas Battle, Megumi Seki, Ian Whyte, Richard Blake, Jon Valera, Rafael Valdez

Year: 2009

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US, Hong Kong


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