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Originally published Friday, November 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Game" could have been such a kick

Irresistible concept: a fictional comedy about how filmmakers recast and finished "Game of Death" after Bruce Lee's 1973 death. Anyone who saw what...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review1.5 stars

"Finishing the Game," with Roger Fan, Sung Kang, Meredith Scott Lynn, Monica Gabriela Curnen, Mousa Kraish. Directed by Justin Lin, from a screenplay by Lin and Josh Diamond. 88 minutes. Not rated; for general audiences. Varsity. Showtimes.

Irresistible concept: a fictional comedy about how filmmakers recast and finished "Game of Death" after Bruce Lee's 1973 death.

Anyone who saw what Tim Burton did with "Ed Wood" depicting the birth of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" would be first in line — especially after figuring in the '70s clothing, music and mustaches involved. But this tedious mockumentary isn't even as entertaining as one of Ed Wood's actual films, and once-promising director Justin Lin ("Better Luck Tomorrow") has some karma to square for fumbling such a sure thing.

Lee — who once lived and is now buried in Seattle — died suddenly at age 32, weeks before "Enter the Dragon's" release made him an instant cross-cultural icon. He had finished only several minutes of footage for "Game of Death." (Trivia: Infamously quitting the role of James Bond after just one movie, George Lazenby was set to co-star with Lee in "Game" — and even to have dinner with him on the night of Lee's death. Lazenby's career promptly evaporated.)

The story begins as a low-rent executive (Sam Bottoms) decides to go ahead and finish the movie without its star. His son (Jake Sandvig) steps up to direct, while a casting director with delusions of her own importance (Meredith Scott Lynn) helps pick Lee's replacement.

The wacky group of contenders includes: Breeze Loo (Roger Fan), the cocky star of martial-arts knockoffs; Cole Kim (Sung Kang), a clueless amateur who bickers with his manager/girlfriend (Monica Gabriela Curnen); a white dude (McCaleb Burnett); an Indian doctor named Rajah (Mousa Kraish) with a full beard and bushy head of Sideshow Bob hair; and Troy Poon (Dustin Nguyen from "21 Jump Street"), whose one break among innumerable delivery-boy roles was a buddy-cop show that left him stuck repeating a catchphrase for life.

Clips from the fake cop show and Breeze Loo's faux flicks strike the right note. The filmmakers also mine some pointed humor from the Asian stereotypes. But most of the movie's scant 88 minutes crawl by because of tone-deaf jokes and excruciating timing. Christopher Guest has nothing to worry about. Auditions, screen-tests and behind-the-scenes infighting — which includes trouble between Breeze and Cole over the former's girlfriend — drag on like a latter-day reality show as the aspirants are whittled away. And most disappointing, it all ends without showing what would have been the most hilarious thing: the cobbling together of the "Game of Death" — in which a cardboard cut-out of Lee's face is used. But they probably would have fumbled that, too.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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