Readers who don't know me might not know that I lived in Japan for a few years in the 80s. People who do know me have heard the stories until they are tired of them. One of the things that most surprised us about Japan was manga and anime. Everyone knows about them now, but when we went we had no idea that grownups spent most of their free time reading comic books, and that you could watch these amazing cartoons on TV every night.
Since Dragonball was one of our favorites, I had to see Dragonball: Evolution (2009). Of course, this is a very different Dragonball. The one we watched was about a little boy with a tail named Son Goku. His master was training him for the Tenkai-Ichi Budokai - #1 Under Heaven Martial Arts Tournament. Goku grew up and fought as a teenager in Dragonball Z. I don't know what happened to his tail. We were watching in Japanese, and it didn't make much sense.
But this is a different Dragonball, a reboot, and in live action. Son Goku is played by Justin Long -- wait, that's Justin Chatwin, with no tail. He is a normal high-school student being raised by a martial arts grandfather (Randall Duk Kim), who forbids him from fighting. We get some good training scenes and a scene where he doesn't fight the bullies, just lets them destroy each other. But the bad guy, Lord Piccololo, kills grandfather and is after Goku.
I guess this more or less follows the plot of the original Dragonball. Goku gets a new master - Chow Yun Fat! - meets cute Chi Chi (Jamie Chung), thief Bulma (Emma Rossum), other thief Yamucha (Joon Park), and bad girl Mai (Eriko, in the style of Bai Ling), all from the comic. I didn't see the somewhat generic Chatwin as Goku, but he had some better scenes toward the end.
If you're not a DB fan, I think a lot of this will just leave you puzzled. If you are a fan, it will annoy you, because it is done all wrong. So I don't know who the audience for this movie. But if you ignore that, it's actually a pretty good kids' action movie. I'd even watch the sequel.