Rated PG for intense sequences of action/violence and brief mild language, 84 minutes
Cheap, third-rate "Dragonball" a big disappointment to comic book fans
Many comic books fans are probably eagerly awaiting the new fantasy film "Dragonball Evolution," based on the hugely popular Japanese manga comics and anime of the same name, but they'll be tremendously disappointed with this cheap, derivivative and otherwise third-rate movie version. The film builds on the dark themes of the comics and has some entertaining fight scenes, but generates little intensity and involvement and takes itself way, way too seriously while wasting a well-known, talented cast in the process.
The story begins with Goku (Justin Chatwin) who seeks out upon his adoptive grandfather Grandpa Gohan's (Randall Duk Kim) dying request to find the great Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) and gather all seven Dragon Balls. Of which he has one, in order to prevent the evil Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) from succeeding in his desire to use the Dragon Balls to take over the world. With the help of friend Bulma (Emmy Rossum), Goku's quest is to obtain the mystical Dragonballs before Piccolo does.
"Dragonball Evolution" is a comic-book adaptation that falls flat in attempting to translate the fun and energy of the comic books to the screen. In other words it's boring and laughable in every way. Yes, this is a fantasy comic-book film, but even on that level it fails to generate much interest, mainly due to the fact that director James Wong (who directed a couple of the "Final Destination" films) and writer Ben Ramsey can't get a handle on developing any sort of coherent story or fleshing out the characters from the comic books.
"Dragonball" has a decent pace and Wong inserts a few impressive fight scenes and special effects, but the biggest disappointment comes with the worst acting - even worse the "Dragonball" anime films - and those characters are animated. The bland Justin Chatwin ("The Invisible") is miscast the role of Goku (aged to a teenager for the movie) but even worse is Rossum's expressionless Bulma and Chow Yun-Fat wildly overacting as Master Roshi. The only truly memorable character is the evil Lord Piccolo, played with quiet fervor by James Marsters underneath a load of makeup and pointy ears.
All of "Dragonball Evolution" is a bit ridiculous and silly when you think about it - the adventure of a lifetime for some magical balls - but comic-book fans may turn out enough to make it a mild cult hit. Fortunately, the film ends quickly with an over-the-top climax that reminds more of "An American Werewolf in London" than any comic book that leaves it open to more of these. Supposedly, the script for part 2 is already written; one tenet of the movie is to "have faith in yourself" - let's have faith that script is far better than this.