Bo Hu started practising martial arts from a tender age and
gets into trouble frequently. Together with his incorrigible
friends, he sunk deeper into trouble everytime and eventually
enrages his father to his death. Bo Hu's mother grounds him
at home so that he could be remorseful for his past mistakes
and subsequently turn over a new leaf. Feeling guilty and
wanting to repent, Bo Hu then sets his mind to behave himself
and study hard...Until a series of mysterious events changed
his life forever. Qian Qian comes along and they get embroiled
in an entwined fate...
It’s usually bad news when a sequel returns without its lead star, and even more so, if the lead star is one comedian called Stephen Chow. Honestly, there’s no one quite like the Stephen Chow of the late 80s and 90s who became Hong Kong’s undisputed number one comedian with his expert comic timing and rubber-faced mannerisms in a string of ‘mo lei tau’ hits like this sequel’s predecessor.
Seventeen years after Flirting Scholar, director Lee Lik Chi has decided that his audience could do with this sequel- though without the key ingredient for its success, Stephen Chow. His presence is sorely, sorely missed here, for Mainland actor Huang Xiaoming (taking over Chow’s role as Tang Bo-hu) pales far in comparison to Chow. Suave and charismatic though he may be, Huang is no comedian and his stiff expressions whenever the script calls on him to be funny is painful both for him and his audience.
Luckily, Huang’s Tang Bo-hu isn’t called upon to carry the movie on his own shoulders. He has three other rascal friends, fellow scholars if you will, played by Ritchie Jen, Nat Chan and Zhou Libo. All three actors prove to be much better comedians than Huang and easily steal the scenes where they appear together. Fans of the original may recall that Nat Chan appeared in the 1993 original and this sequel sees him in a welcome return to the big screen after a hiatus.
Ritchie gets a thankless recurring gag in the movie that riffs on Transformers, but the Taiwanese actor has cut his teeth in enough period comedies to make his presence in this one at least mildly enjoyable. Zhou Li-bo may be unrecognizable to most outside Mainland China (as he was to this reviewer) but his straight-faced expressions are rather amusing. If you’re wondering why this review is focused so much on the actors, that’s because this is a film where the comedic potential resides really in the actors and less in the script.
Indeed, a ‘mo lei tau’ movie like this is as funny as the actors in them- and this one suffers tremendously under the lack-thereof of Stephen Chow. You can tell when Lee Lik-Chi pretty much recycles the same type of sight/ gross-out gags in this movie to largely unfunny results. There’s an ‘invisibility’ joke that ends up with Nat Chan going naked again, a wordplay competition that sees rival scholar Cheung Tat-ming swarmed by flying cockroaches and a tumbling down the stairs gag by Zhou Li-bo that proves less funny with each subsequent time it is used. Not even the return of Chow’s regulars like Law Kar Ying, Lam Tze Chung and Tin Kai-Man manage to redeem Chow’s absence.
So “Flirting Scholar 2” isn’t just a step down from its predecessor- it’s a huge tumble down. Lee Lik-Chi forgets that it isn’t just about doing more of the same- he had to do more, much more, in order for this sequel to be anywhere close to the hit the original was. But he doesn’t, and his duo of scriptwriters Tsang Kan-Cheong, Chan Man-Keung don’t either, so all one remembers is that Stephen Chow isn’t here and without him, this sequel is just unnecessary.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is scratchy and the dialogues in the movie aren’t clearly defined- the only plus is that you get to enjoy Nat Chan in Cantonese. Visuals are equally disappointing, and looks no better than a VCD.
Review by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 18 September 2010