Director: Vincent Kok
Cast: Sandra Ng, Chapman To, Ronald Cheng, Teresa Mo, Lynn Xiong, Raymond Wong, Fiona Sit, Eric Kot, Karena Ng, Yu Bo, Janelle Sing, Jim Chim
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins
Released By: Scorpio East Pictures & Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 7 February 2013
Synopsis: Brand new “Hundred Stars Hotel” is a well-equipped five-star hotel located at Qiandao Lake, Hangzhou. However, this hotel is run by a group of incompetent staff including OK (Ronald Cheng) the Assistant Manager, Pacino (Chapman To) the Chief Bartender, Peach (Sandra Ng) the Head of Housekeeping and Sammy (Janelle Sing) the Receptionist.
Rumor has it that a mysterious hotel detective will arrive soon and define the rating of “Hundred Stars Hotel”. In order to match the five-star standard, harsh Cruella (Teresa Mo) has been appointed as the Hotel Manager to restructure the hotel.
Cruella takes the chance to develop “Hundred Stars Hotel” as the shooting location for a big budget movie. Two leading actresses Marilyn (Karena Ng) and Audrey (Lynn Xiong) stay in the hotel and they are arrogant and too hot to handle. OK is assigned to serve Marilyn and gradually Marilyn falls in love with OK. Meanwhile, Paris (Fiona Sit), the daughter of a tycoon and a very good friend to OK, is also staying in the hotel. Paris has to get married in order to inherit her father’s huge assets. OK finds a handsome but nerdy Security Guard Mark (Yu Bo) to be her fake groom and a fake wedding ceremony is about to begin. However, Peter Chan (Raymond Wong), Paris’ uncle who is also one of the heirs, is craving for the wealth and trying all means to ruin the wedding. When OK knows Paris will go back to U.S. for good after the wedding, OK finally realizes Paris is indeed the one he loves. OK proposes to Paris and Paris accepts, the fake wedding becomes a real one!
Cruella and Peach suspect a countryman Jim (Jim Chim) is the mysterious hotel detective. They do their very best to please him with overwhelming services. In the meantime, the rest of the staff are organizing the wedding ceremony of Paris and OK, and protecting them from Peter’s conspiracy. Finally all of them discover that Jim is not the mysterious hotel detective but Mark, who joins the hotel as the Security Guard, secretly monitors the services of the hotel. Mark is touched by their positive attitude and classifies “Hundred Stars Hotel” as a Five-Star Deluxe.
Presumably to kickstart a new all-star Chinese New Year franchise, producer and executive producer Raymond Wong has tapped on veteran actor/writer/director Vincent Kok to helm ‘Hotel Deluxe’. Unfortunately, despite declining returns back in Hong Kong after facing stiff competition from Eric Tsang’s rival ‘I Love Hong Kong’ series, Wong should very well have stuck with another instalment of ‘All’s Well Ends Well’, for this substitute is anything but funny.
Yes, you would have thought that Wong would have gotten the ‘he sui pian’ formula down to a pat after so many years in the industry – and at first glance, it does seem that he has got all the right elements in place. There is first and foremost an all-star cast - the likes of Ronald Cheng, Sandra Ng, Teresa Mo, Chapman To, Fiona Sit, and Raymond Wong himself - all of whom have experience in such genre fare, being alumnus of either the ‘All’s Well Ends Well’ rebooted franchise or the ‘I Love Hong Kong’ series.
The premise also shows comedic promise – a harsh and demanding hotel manager named Cruella (Mo) has to reshape the organisational practices of the “Hundred Stars Hotel” at risk of losing its five-star status due to the complacency and incompetency of its staff, including its assistant manager OK (Ronald Cheng), chief bartender Pacino (Chapman To) and head of housekeeping Peach (Sandra Ng). Her solution? Turn the place into a location for a big-budget movie – which creates opportunities for tongue-in-cheek jokes about the moviemaking industry.
And at the helm of the movie is veteran actor/ writer/ director Vincent Kok, who had in 2009 rebooted the ‘All’s Well Ends Well’ series and was also responsible for the quirky yet hilarious 2011 Lunar New Year comedy ‘Mr and Mrs Incredible’. Of course, those familiar with Kok’s filmography will know that he is not the most consistent filmmaker around, and an excellent case in point would be last year’s contemporary comedy ‘Love Is Pyjamas’ – also produced by Wong and written and directed by Kok – which was bland and humourless.
Indeed, it is Kok who proves to be the undoing factor this time round, wasting not only what potential the concept had but also the considerable talents of an ensemble cast. Simply put, he and his writers - Anselm Chan, Fung Min Hun and Poon Chun Lam – seem to have come up with the movie while on a creative void. Granted that half the humour in the dialogue is probably lost in the Mandarin-dubbed version that we are forced to endure here, but the scenarios are in themselves just tired and uninspired – and it says a lot when the funniest thing here is a toilet gag which sees Cruella and Peach try to retrieve a guest’s diamond ring inside a toilet bowl with faeces.
For reasons unknown to us, Kok doesn’t seem to be able to develop any of the themes within the story fully. The initial conflict between Cruella and the other regulars at the hotel fizzles out just as quickly as it begins, and what could have been an interesting arc pitting the obsessive-compulsive Peach against Cruella resolves itself even before it is properly developed. Even the scenes with Kok cameoing as a movie director are so tame that they are almost inconsequential, squandering any potential that could have come out of a film-within-a-film idea.
Instead, what we are left with are a bunch of half-hearted romances so insincere that the happy ending feels absolutely tacked on – OK with his good friend Paris (Sit) but with a love complication in the form of his movie idol Marilyn (Karena Ng); Peach and Paris’ uncle Peter Chan (Wong) whose name is a tired riff on Sandra Ng’s real-life husband; and Marilyn’s rival actress Audrey (Lynn Xiong) with country bumpkin Jim (Jim Chim). It’s one thing to keep with tradition – Raymond Wong’s Lunar New Year movies have always ended with big happy weddings – and quite another to actually make an audience care for it; sadly, the nuptials here are just plain cringeworthy to say the least.
With such lacklustre material, not even some of Hong Kong’s best comedians manage to salvage the movie - Ronald overacts as usual; Sandra simply looks bored most of the time; ditto for Teresa; and Chapman doesn’t bother to try too hard. Ironically, Wong is left looking red-faced for half of the movie, and besides being a supposed reaction to some drug, it could perhaps be an indication of how he is indeed feeling for being involved in something as inane and dull as this.
Yet Wong has only himself to blame for what is sure to be a Lunar New Year dud. The writing was on the wall with Kok’s ‘Love Is… Pyjamas’, and once again, Kok demonstrates that he has reached his creative nadir with ‘Hotel Deluxe’. If a movie like this can rarely get a guffaw out of you, then there is really little point to it. Don’t be fooled by the title – this is not a ‘deluxe’ hotel, not even close, and we recommend that you book your spot at some other Lunar New Year movie this season.
(Stay away from this Hotel – despite an all-star cast, this bland and uninspired Lunar New Year comedy brings little cheer)
Review by Gabriel Chong