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Power Kids
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by Jay Seaver

"Junior high kids vs. gun-toting terrorists!"
3 stars

I can't recommend "Power Kids" to families, and it's not just because it is an amazing example of how what is apparently considered to be enjoyable family entertainment in one culture (say, Thailand) comes off as mind-bogglingly inappropriate in another (say, the U.S.). It's because, with the exception of the fight choreography, everything about the movie is cloying and amateurish.

The movie gives off its "really, this is for kids?" vibe even before the credits start, with refugees getting machine-gunned in the jungle. The scene still shifts to a more peaceful spot in Bangkok, where muay thai master Lek (Arunya Pawilai) looks after four kids - his niece Catt (Sasisa Jindamanee), nephews Wuth (Nantawooti Boonrapsap) and little Wun, and son of a friend Pong (Paytaai Wongkamlao). Sadly, Wun has a heart condition, and the need for a transplant is pushed up when some bullies chase him away from a remote control car race that their friend Jib (Nawarat Techarathanaprasert) is participating in. The good news: A donor heart has been found! The bad news: It needs to be transplanted within four hours and is currently located in a hospital that has been taken over by terrorists led by a cruel leader (Johnny Nguyen) and an uncertain young girl (Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon).

Yes, you are reading this right - the second half of this movie involves four junior-high-schoolers sneaking into a hospital filled with terrorists holding machine guns to retrieve a donor heart. Sure, they've got some muay thai skills, but this is still kids getting shot at even before you get to behavior you might not want your kids imitating, like smashing fluorescent lights on people and flying through panes of glass face first (and unless they spent a lot more on CGI than I imagine, there's really not much chance Boonrapsap is being doubled for there). Heck, just the "fun" scene meant to show us the kids' skills early on might be a little alarming for parents: I'm not sure I like the idea of kids whose elbows are at groin level learning to do Tony Jaa stuff anyway, let alone giving them the idea of strapping lengths of pipe to their arms and legs!

We can argue about whether a little bit of action is going to do the kids much harm or that this probably wouldn't get past the MPAA anyway (they did give Denmark's The Substitute an R for a couple f-bombs, after all), but that won't make the parts of the movie where kids and adults aren't wailing on each other any better. Good old-fashioned (and groan-worthy) not giving kids much credit rules the day, with every character acting in the broadest way possible, adults acting like idiots, and plenty of mugging for the camera. The poor little sick boy is maybe the worst of it, and the film handles the conflicting emotions around an organ transplant with all the delicacy of a minefield. And the way that's resolved at the end... Good lord, even if they don't show everything, it's just gross followed by over-the-top.

It's a shame all the stuff around the fighting is so ill-conceived, as the actual martial arts action is quite good. Johnny Nguyen, is a grade-A movie fighter and stuntman, and he's here to play. He doesn't seem to be slowing down that much when that involves trading punches with Nantawooti Boonrapsap and Sasisa Jindamanee, who are remarkably agile and quick for such young kids - even if they weren't so young, their action scenes would put many grown-up Hollywood movies to shame. Nawarat Techarathanaprasert isn't bad either, although she's not at the level of the other two, while Paytaai Wongkamlao seems best suited for comedy sidekick duties. They do get involved in some enjoyable adventure bits.

"Know your kids" should always be the mantra when choosing flicks for the younger set, and that's definitely the case here. Truth be told, I half suspect most kids would get a kick out of the movie, even as their parents may be horrified. It's got cult classic potential for grown-ups, as well, thanks to its combination of good martial arts, bad acting, and utter sincerity about its insane content.

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originally posted: 07/14/09 03:48:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Actionfest 2010 For more in the Actionfest 2010 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/24/09 Albert Valentin More like 3 Ninjas meets Die Hard...fights worth seeing. 3 stars
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  DVD: 08-Jun-2010



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