bullies never learn. If a trouble-making martial arts hardnose says he’s “just
passing through,” you’ll never run him off with the typical strong-arm
stuff. Instead, tell him to consider
settling down. Needless to say, reverse psychology is not the style of the
thuggish proprietor of the local Double Death Dojo. Get ready to rumble Roadhouse style with the DVD release of Bob Clark’s animated
feature, Shotokan Man (a.k.a. Dixie Dynamite, trailer here), now available from
the earth in search of his absconded American serviceman father has taken the
taciturn Dirk to many small towns, but never anywhere quite like Westabooga,
Alabama. Thanks to the influence of the
Nipponophile Sheriff Fuquay, Westabooga has largely adopted Japanese cuisine
and culture, but their necks are still pretty red. The Japanese raised Amerasian drifter does
not feel as comfortable as you might expect, though. He has issues with his Japanese heritage,
particularly his experiences with missing father’s dojo.
Zen-like approach to life and martial arts is quite attractive to single mother
Rose Stewart, the owner of the Westabooga Sushi Café and on-again-off-again
girlfriend of Dewey, Jr., the narcoleptic sheriff’s entitled son and the leader
of the Double Death. It logically
follows Dirk is in for a massive beat down at the hands of Dewey’s students,
but the backcountry Possum Master will help him recharge his karma, giving the
spiritual conventions of kung fu movies a sly chicken fried twist.
film that uses the word didgeridoo more than three times earns points for
something. It is Dirk’s instrument of
choice and also sometimes a handy club. We
do not hear much of it played throughout the film, but there is a nifty arrangement
of “Free Bird” featuring shamisen and electric bass. The combination of greasy grits-and-gravy
southern living married to higher forms of Japanese art and philosophy ought to
produce some outrageous gags, but Shotokan
never escalates beyond the level of pleasantly amusing. There is a respect for both traditions, but
not a lot of transcendent inspiration.
voice actor George Faughnan has a way of delivering Dirk’s limited dialogue
that maximizes the comedic effect. The
renderings of Stewart and her waitress Tula Mae should also appeal to junior
high school boys, bringing to mind the ladies of Twin Peaks’ Double R Diner for older hipsters.
Frankly, Clark (not to be confused with the Bob
Clark who directed A Christmas Story and
Porky’s) and co-writer-associate
producer Mimi Gentry are surprisingly forgiving in their portrayal of 1979
Alabama. They eschew cheap shots and score settling, only resorting to cliché with
the loutish but unremarkable villain, Dewey, Jr. Genre fans raised on a steady
diet of Billy Jack movies will find
it agreeable but not essential viewing.
Of course, all the kids are caught up in Shotokan Man fever these days, making it a hot Christmas item. Recommended for mild chuckles as a stocking stuffer, Shotokan Man is now
available on DVD from FilmWorks Entertainment.
Labels: Animated films, DVD, Martial arts cinema