SCAMSGIVING (诈团圆) (DISNEY+) (2023)
SYNOPSIS: Jason and his mother, Yun, make big bucks together in Chinatown swindling money out of people since Jason was little. Along with the grocery store owner Andy who took them in since Jason was a baby, they decide to do one last big job. Their target is Mrs. Apple, the founder of Tao Lin, a world renowned porcelain company. Jason pretends to be that rich old granny's long lost grandson, and Mrs. Apple insists on bringing Jason back to Taiwan, so that Jason can officially reclaim his heritage. In Mrs. Apple's extravagant house, these foreigners start role-playing to infiltrate the Zong Family. Jason starts to feel the warmth of being a part of a family that he has never felt before. This has greatly affected Team America's plan, the three of them start to blame and fight each other. Their cover is about to be exposed, but somehow the truth of Jason's family mystery is revealed.
The little known Scamsgiving was released earlier this year as part of the Lunar New Year offerings. The Taiwanese crime comedy might lack the laughs but overall certainly better than the average Raymond Wong’s offerings.
Together with grocery store owner, Andy (Tai Chih Yuan), Yun (Sonia Sui) and her son, Jason (Edward Chen) makes a living in Chinatown, San Francisco as small-time swindlers. Their next target however is a rich lady and owner of a porcelain company, Mrs Apple (Chen Shu Fang). Their get-rich scheme is to get Jason to impose as Mrs Apple’s long-lost grandson by using a porcelain bowl made by the latter’s late son, Hin.
While the three definitely have plans of their own when they are invited to stay in the mansion of Mrs Apple in Taiwan, what they didn’t know is Mrs Apple is suffering from early-stage dementia and her company is about to be taken over by two scheming relatives, Uncle Dick and Uncle John.
The comedy of Scamsgiving mostly comes from veteran comedian Tai Chih Yuan so we are not exactly sure why it’s being marketed as a comedy. Tai gives it all from impersonating Andy Lau to Fei Yu Qing to mouthing funny bits in halting English. He is generally rib-tickling whenever he is onscreen despite being in a small supporting role.
Known primarily as the fierce wife, Sonia Sui remains as gorgeous as ever playing a swindler with a heart. As part of her role, Sui is given the opportunity to change into a number of outfits and it’s certainly a visual treat to her fanbase. Edward Chen who came into prominence in the gay drama, Your Name Engraved Herein, is more than serviceable as a young man torn between family and responsibility.
To be open and fair, there’s not so much of a heist or scam to being with. Much of the second and third act are devoted to the family dynamics between Jason and his cousins. Even Yun and Andy largely disappear by then. Award-winning Chen Shu Fang (Dear Tenant, Little Big Women) delivers another stoic performance as the strong-willed matriarch who misses her late son.
Scamsgiving meanders mostly on the whole resulting in a movie that doesn’t really connect with its title. The narrative is filled with too many melodramatic sitcom premises and dialogue that the two-hour duration feels unnecessarily long and tedious. Yet the movie concludes on a sweet (somewhat predictable) note which makes the journey a tad better than an average Raymond Wong’s CNY vehicle. Obviously, there’s effort being put in but it’s too uneven and heavily short on laughs to recommend it.
Review by Linus Tee