Director: Stephen Chow
Cast: Deng Chao, Show Luo, Kitty Zhang, Jelly Lin Yun, Kris Wu, Li Shangzheng, Wen Zhang, Tin Kai Man, Lam Chi Chung
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Opening Day: 8 February 2016
Synopsis: Hin's real estate project involved reclamation of the sea, threatening the livelihood of the residents who relied on the sea to make a living. Bearing family secrets, Shan was dispatched to stop Hin. During their encounters, they fall in love with each other. Even though Hin stopped the reclamation plan out of his love for Shan, Shan got injured in an accident and vanished into the sea.
There was a time when this reviewer looked up to Stephen Chow. The 53 year old Hong Kong actor isn’t the best looking dude in showbiz, but thanks to his roles in movies like the Fight Back to School series (1991-1993), All’s Well, Ends Well (1992) and Justice, My Foot! (1992), he is a fine testament that comedy actors can make it big – and we mean very, very big – in their careers. The success didn’t stop there. Chow went on to star in well known titles like Hail the Judge (1994), the two parter A Chinese Odyssey (1995 and 1996) and King of Comedy (1999). In fact, he was the epitome of Hong Kong’s 1990s “mo lei tou” subculture: movies which feature absurdist humour which makes zero sense.
Then came the 2000s where Chow began directing movies like Shaolin Soccer (2001), Kung fu Hustle (2004) and CJ7 (2008). While these titles are rib tickling funny, something seemed to be missing. The rustic old school humour was overshadowed by high production values and computer generated effects. But it is only understandable that everyone needs to adapt in these changing times.
After scoring it big with his last film Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons (2013) which saw worldwide box office takings of S$179 million (it’s one of the highest grossing Chinese language films of all time), Chow is back with his Lunar New Year offering. It has a stellar cast lineup (Deng Chao, Show Luo, Kitty Zhang, Kris Wu and Tsui Hark). Its teaser trailer seems to promise a bucketful of laughs (the policeman’s sketches of a half human half fish is hilarious). There’s a new girl joining the league of “Sing Girls” (remember how actresses like Athena Chu, Vicki Zhao and Huang Shengyi made it big after starring opposite Chow in their breakout roles?). The theme song is performed by heavyweights Adam Cheng (watch out for a scene where a senior mermaid explains how a certain “Mr Cheng” saved their race from extinction) and Karen Mok.
This writer is happy to report that the 94 minute movie fits the bill of a Lunar New Year title which contains barrelful of laughs for the whole family.
Comedies are not supposed to take themselves too seriously – and this title is a fine example of that. Deng (Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, American Dreams in China) is likeable enough to be the film’s antagonist turned protagonist. Zhang (All About Women, Shaolin Girl) puts her bosoms and death stares to good use as the film’s resident bitch. Luo is outrageously entertaining as an octopus – and it’s clear that the popular singer actor host had a hoot with his character’s computer generated tentacles. Beating over 100,000 hopeful to star in Chow’s movie is Lin, a fresh faced newcomer from Huzhou in Zhejiang province. Playing a mermaid who tasked to assassinate the man responsible for destroying their home (Deng), the actress has just the right amount of idealism and cuteness to pull the role off. Needless to say, the two will fall in love, giving the movie its story arc. Let’s see where this starring role will bring Lin in the next few years.
Another reason why this comedy is highly recommended is the message behind the story. Without being overly preachy, the importance of conserving our environment is nicely conveyed. While we can’t expect Hollywood standards when it comes to computer generated effects, the digital team in charge does a decent job without being too tacky.
When the end credits roll, you’ll walk out of the theatre realising Chow still has what it takes to deliver high quality entertainment. It'd be nice if he had a cameo in the movie though.
(Stephen Chow’s latest work is a complete package – a stellar cast which delivers fun performances, a decent story about environmentalism, and most importantly: a barrelful of laughs guaranteed to entertain the whole family)
Review by John Li