Starring: Lin Hsiao Lan, Oshima Yukari
Directors: Lee Tso Nam
KUNG FU WONDER CHILD (1989) stars Taiwanese "wunderkind" Lin Hsiao Lan, who also starred in the similarly-themed magical kung fu fantasies, MAGIC OF SPELL (1986) and MAGIC WARRIORS (1991). Here she plays the grandson (she always played male parts) of the cook at a taoist kung fu school. She picks up all kinds of skills and tricks simply by watching and observing. And she lures two of the students there into all sorts of mischief as her co-conspirators. The plot gets pretty complicated as a wandering maiden, with kung fu powers of her own, comes on the scene looking for her missing father and sister, whose disappearance is the work of a corrupt priest. Ghosts, spells, miniature sets and magical kung fu battles all figure in the action.
Lin Hsiao Lan, who carried the wonderful MAGIC OF SPELL on her own impressive little shoulders, is here forced to share the stage with two other formidable martial arts stars, Jack Long (7 GRANDMASTERS, NINJA CHECKMATE) as her grandpa, and Yukari Oshima (ANGEL, KICKBOXER'S TEARS), as the wandering maiden.
There are some clever scenes, including one where Grandpa uses miniature models of all the principals to get the two students to protect a ghost who'd been accidentally freed. At another point, the evil priest turns into a beautifully animated cartoon dragon.
Although I'm a big fan of both Jack Long and Yukari Oshima, I still found it disappointing that the ever-delightful Lin Hsiao Lan did not take center stage here. Also, the proceedings are simply not as inspired as MAGIC OF SPELL, although they're marginally more enjoyable than MAGIC WARRIORS (where Lin had to share so much screen time with a bratty kid), which, like WONDER CHILD, was directed by Lee Tso Nam (better known for old school kung fu efforts like EAGLE'S CLAW and CHALLENGE OF DEATH). This one also pales next to such similarly themed taoist kung fu spectacles of the 1980s as Sammo Hung's ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND and the Yuen Clan series that included MIRACLE FIGHTERS, TAOISM DRUNKARD, SHAOLIN DRUNKARD, and YOUNG TAOISM FIGHTER. Chinese with English Subtitles