Director: Vincent Kok
Cast: Raymond Wong, Sandra Ng, Eric Tsang, Ronald Cheng, Fiona Sit, Lynn Hung, Karena Ng, Yu Bo, Alex Lam
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins
Rating: PG13 (Sexual References)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films and Scorpio East Pictures
Opening Day: 30 January 2014
Synopsis: Written and directed by Vincent Kok, Hello Babies will tell how members of the older generation, eager for the arrival of a grandson on whom to dote, find ways to urge the younger generation to bear children. Lei Ming (Raymond Wong Pak Ming), a Malaysian businessman, is disappointed to discover that his sworn enemy, Yang Awei (Eric Tsang), is expecting a grandson. As a result, Lei Ming pushes his grand-nephew to carry on the family line, threatening to cut off his living funds if there is no progress. He even hires a “superstar midwife” (Sandra Ng) to supervise the couple’s love life. Hello Babies will feature Karena as a young, pregnant mother, marking the first time she has taken on such a role. To the surprise of many, her character is married not to Raymond Lam, but to singer-actor Alex Lam ), who is playing Yang Awei’s son. Lei Ming’s unfortunate grand-nephew and grand-niece-in-law will be portrayed by Ronald Cheng and Fiona Sit.
Three years after they became Lunar New Year rivals by going head to head with their ‘he sui pians’, top Hong Kong comedians Raymond Wong and Eric Tsang are teaming up for the first time in the Vincent Kok scripted and directed ‘Hello Babies’. Even though it does not bear the ‘All’s Well Ends Well’ brand name, this could very well be yet another chapter of the series - not only does it revolve around the perennial themes of family and familial joy, it also boasts a cast largely drawn from the stars who have been regulars of the franchise since Raymond Wong revived it back in 2009.
In a nod to their supposed real-life personas, Wong and Tsang play Lei Ming and Yang Awei respectively, sworn rivals from the same Malaysian village in Ipoh who have been competing with each other since young. Their latest brush has to do with lineage, or more specifically, whom among them will be the first to have a grandson. When Lei Ming hears that Yang Awei’s son Alex (Alex Lam) is expecting a son with his wife Shan (Karena Ng), he immediately video-conferences his son Scallop (Ronald Cheng) and daughter-in-law Cher (Fiona Sit) to give him a grandson.
Unfortunately for Lei Ming, it isn’t that simple - Scallop and Cher have lost that ‘lovin feeling’, so much so that Scallop sees his wife Cher as no different from a best friend, which explains why he keeps calling her Vincent after his best friend (coincidentally played by the director Vincent Kok). So into the proceedings enters Gong San (Sandra Ng), whose role is to assist the couple in rekindling their passion and ensure a smooth pregnancy for Cher thereafter - her therapy including employing a yoga instructor (Jan Lamb in a cameo) to get Cher in compromising positions so Scallop will get jealous.
With Ronald Cheng, Fiona Sit and Sandra Ng in the picture, Kok seems to have forgotten about the rest of his stars. Indeed, a good part of the movie is spent with the trio, as Gong San’s welcome presence soon becomes frustrating with her intrusive checking-ins on Scallop and Cher. Despite the chemistry between the three stars, there’s no masking the plain and simple fact that what passes for comedy here isn’t really funny in the first place; instead, Kok and his co-writers (Anselm Chan, Poon Jun-Lam and Cheung Wai-Kei) are content to go for the lowest common denominator, and that includes passing off an extended farting exercise between husband and wife as humour.
Only slightly better are the shenanigans that Kok’s favourite trio get up to with Alex and Shan in order to deceive Lei Ming, consisting of two - one less so and another more so - elaborate ruses at the hospital to placate the Alzheimer’s stricken patriarch; indeed, the final switcheroo is probably the most inspired sequence, which frankly comes too late to redeem the film from its own tedium. But what really puzzles is why, after setting up and teasing its audience with a match-up between Raymond Wong and Eric Tsang, that Kok decides to abandon it almost entirely as if it were simply an afterthought.
Only at the start and right at the end do Wong and Tsang share the screen together, and even then, it is as part of an ensemble rather than just the two of them. It is a pity that the script does not develop their so-called enmity, and therefore accord the two veteran comedians the rare opportunity of facing off with each other. For that matter, Wong and Tsang have simply too little screen time whether together or apart - and that is especially true for Tsang, who despite getting top billing here, has really no more than a glorified supporting part.
Worse still, the best that Kok can come up with for Tsang is to have him play an irresponsible grandfather who is first openly disappointed that his grandchild is a girl and then in just one sequence show off his philandering tendencies trying to go after a middle-aged woman (Miriam Yeung). It is little consolation that Tsang gets to show off some of his ‘Wing Chun’ moves in a lame parody of ‘The Grandmasters’, in which Tsang gets to pose with Sandra’s ‘bagua’ moves with a train in the background for good measure. Coming off the ‘I Love Hong Kong’ series, the material here simply does Tsang little justice, and one wonders why he had bothered with joining Raymond Wong’s film in the first place.
Yes, ‘Hello Babies’ may have sold itself as a Raymond Wong - Eric Tsang pairing after their annual rivalry over the past consecutive three years, but what potential that premise might have held is squandered considering not just how little time they get in the movie, but also how little of that time they spend together. There is also little fun to be had with the other characters in the movie, chiefly because there just isn’t much comedic juice in the first place. Sure, there are parts that are fitfully amusing, but yet again, this marks the third in a string of Vincent Kok duds which includes the even more unfunny ‘Hotel Deluxe’ this same time last year and the more recent ‘Love Is… Pyjamas’.
(Fitfully amusing but never quite as entertaining or engaging as you want it to be, ‘Hello Babies’ is an unremarkable CNY comedy that is also utterly inconsequential)
Review by Gabriel Chong