Cheol-Ho Lim and Young-Jo Choi in Jump
(© Carol Rosegg)
Cheol-Ho Lim and Young-Jo Choi in Jump
(© Carol Rosegg)
Jump, the Korean martial arts comedy import at the Union Square Theatre, is described in its press release as "Jackie Chan meets Charlie Chaplin." As it turns out, that statement is accurate only insofar as the actors are Asian martial artists and their comedy is largely physical and not verbal. While Jump features the occasional exciting display of martial arts moves (choreographed by Young-Sub Jin) and a laugh every now and then, it is otherwise as bland as cardboard. Indeed, the lack of imagination that went into the creation of this show is stunning in the extreme.

Before the show begins a bent over old man with a cane kibitzes with the audience. We will see him again, and it is no surprise that he will eventually be revealed to be sensationally acrobatic. Then we meet a family: a grandfather, father, mother, uncle, daughter and a soon-to-be son-in-law. They come out and perform martial arts moves much in the way the Rockettes come out at Radio City and show their stuff. All fine, but the problems are still to come.

And here we go: They perform an extended skit (extended to the better part of an hour), in which each family member has essentially one (or less) traits. The grandfather is strict and demanding -- one might even say cruel when he pretends to ram a stick in the anus of a wayward relative. The father and mother are anxious to get their sweet young daughter married off to nerdy guy with big glasses. The suitor's shtick is that whenever anyone takes off his glasses he becomes a slick, tough, martial arts master -- except, when his glasses go back on, he has no idea what heroics he's just performed. The Uncle is a drunk. As a family, their one distinguishing characteristic is that they all have the moves to take on Chuck Norris or Jet Li. Family fights, as you might imagine, can get pretty wild.

Into this household come two hapless burglars. Outnumbered and outmanned, the two villains try their best to steal and escape, but neither a gun nor their own martial arts knowledge can help them against this uniquely equipped family. Some of the battles that take place have sparks of imagination, but are either run into the ground with repetition or are surrounded by so much lame posturing that one loses interest in the dumb plot.

The best moments are those when they poke fun at the kung fu genre. A fake version of a fighter flying through the air is genuinely amusing. So is a slow motion rendition of a Rube Goldberg series of ricochets that end up knocking out the two villains. But there is so little of this clever stuff that what there is stands out in stark relief to the rest of the filler.

Only at the very end, when the skit is thankfully over and all of the actors come out again to show off their skills, does the show become really exciting. Had the creators of Jump had the imagination to come up with enough varied martial arts stunts to fill up 90 minutes, they would have had a wonderful show on a par with Stomp or Be, but most of this production is so interminable that it makes Jump look more like squat.