Dragonball Evolution: A Cartoonish Coming-of-Ager


It serves you best to not know a damn thing about Akira Toriyama’s much-beloved Dragonball manga (or the TV series and video games it spawned); better to enjoy director James Wong’s loony live-action adaptation for the exquisite-corpse exercise that it is—its rules reinvented and subplots obfuscated with each new setpiece. Under the wing of producer Stephen Chow—good-natured king of CGI-laden, martial-arts comedy—Evolution is far more entertaining than it deserves to be, unless you’re a 10-year-old boy, in which case it’s only the greatest movie ever made. Two thousand years after nearly destroying Earth, green-skinned demon Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) escapes captivity to hunt down seven of them titular orbs, except he never counted on facing high school hero Goku (Justin Chatwin), a bedheaded, wire-fu trainee who geekily pines for ass-kicking classmate Chi Chi (Jamie Chung). Arbitrarily aided by fellow dragonball seekers, including his grandfather’s mentor (Chow Yun-Fat, the only actor dedicated enough to play his role as if still animated), Goku defeats school bullies without touching them, learns to toss blue fireballs, shows up at a fighting tournament, makes stepping stones over lava out of dead goo monsters, becomes a werewolf, resurrects a friend, and finds true love. As a cartoonish coming-of-ager, this one goes—well, balls out.