In Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitles
Director: Chan Hing Ka
Cast: Louis Koo, Donnie Yen, Cecilia Cheung, Raymond
Wong, Lynn Xiong, Chapman To, Yan Ni
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Clover Films
Opening Day: 3 February 2011
Make-up artist Sammy is hired by Dream (Yan Ni) as the director of a cosmetic company with Claire (Cecilia Cheung) being the only colleague who is willing to assist him. Sammy invites Ron, a fellow makeup artiste cum woman magnet to join him. Though Ron might appear to be a woman’s magnet, his heart still lingers with his first love Mona, a frustrated writer. A minor incident in the new product commercial ties the friendship among Sammy, Ron and the yacht billionaire Syd (Chapman To). Syd meets Claire and aims to pursue her. Having grown up in a poor family, Claire seizes this as a golden opportunity to live a prosperous life and asks Sammy for help to fulfil her dream, without realizing that she has fallen in love with Sammy.
Two years ago, Raymond Wong successfully resurrected his “All’s Well Ends Well” comedy series with an all-star cast that included Louis Koo, Sandra Ng, Ronald Cheng and Wong himself. And thanks to the resounding success of that film (it was the box-office champion of 2009), Wong reassembled the same cast last year for yet another round of shenanigans- though in a period setting. Alas “All’s Well Ends Well 2010” could not muster the same success as its predecessor, losing out at the box-office during the lucrative CNY season to Eric Tsang’s “72 Tenants of Prosperity”.
So this time round, Wong has brought together an even more star-studded cast, with new entries the likes of Donnie Yen, Carina Lau and Cecilia Cheung (her first role since taking a hiatus five years ago) joining regulars Louis Koo and Lynn Xiong. In terms of pure star quality alone, Wong has hedged his bets in the right place. Louis is exceptionally funny as the effeminate makeup artist Sammy, and easily the best thing that the movie has going for it. And while it may take some time to get used to seeing Donnie in a comedy, he does a mean spoof of his “Ip Man” character and the signature Wing Chun moves- with makeup and brushes that is.
Chan Hing-Ka takes over both writing and directing duties of this instalment in the franchise, which is probably why the movie is set around the cosmetic industry. Hoping to achieve the same kind of success he did with “La Brassiere” and “Mighty Babies”, Hing-Ka once again reuses the formula in his previous two movies by placing his male characters at the centre of a female-driven industry. The cosmetic business is his topic of choice here, so besides Louis Koo’s Sammy, Donnie Yen’s character Ron is yet another makeup artist.
The former schoolmates are now good buddies- Sammy loving his proximity to women that being in this line of work and pretending to be gay offers; and Ron equally successful through his keen understanding of women, developed through many years growing up in a female-dominated family. A particularly hilarious sequence sees Ron’s posse of female relatives (including franchise regular Lee Heung Kam) mistaking Sammy and Ron for gay lovers and expressing their disapproval in innuendoes- something about a ‘straight’ and ‘bent’ straw- when Ron invites Sammy home for dinner.
But “All’s Well Ends Well 2011” is better appreciated as a movie of parts- some much better than others- rather than the sum of these parts. Indeed, besides the case of mistaken identity, there is another similarly LOL sequence where Donnie dons his Ip Man costume to romance Carina Lau’s writer-cum-ex-girlfriend Mona in the rain. Hing Ka and fellow director Janet Chun make the most of these hilarious bits, but unfortunately there are not enough such bright spots to sustain the movie.
Particularly devoid of laughs is Chapman To’s story arc as the wealthy businessman Syd whose previous relationship with a possessive girlfriend Victoria (Lynn Xiong) has left him scarred and afraid of girls, until he meets the simple and sweet Claire (Cecilia Cheung). The humour is too obviously strained, even bordering on the point of ludicrousness, and not enough Chapman’s comedic abilities can draw more than a chuckle from its audience. Faring not much better is oil baron Ken’s (Raymond Wong) relationship woes with a middle-aged tai-tai wannabe Dream (Yan Ni), their constant bickering more irritating than amusing.
The multitude of characters should warn you that there isn’t much character development to be found here, exacerbated by the need to balance screen time across the stars. Hing-Ka’s screenplay is particularly lacking in story, and it shows amply in the last half-hour when he tries to pull these disparate threads together into a predictable happy ending, which feels even more tacked on and forced than in the previous films. That also means heavyweight actresses like Carina Lau and Cecilia Cheung are pretty much wasted, which only calls into question the wisdom of Cecilia’s decision to pick this as her comeback project over an upcoming Derek Yee film.
Sure there are really amusing moments to be found in this latest “All’s Well Ends Well” instalment, but the hit-to-miss ratio here is pretty low- even by the standards of its two predecessors. The sheer star wattage on display does maximise the comedic potential of the genuinely funny bits, though not nearly enough to conceal Hing-Ka and Chun’s patchy storytelling. Raymond Wong will need to do much more to ensure the continued longevity of his CNY cash cow and this reviewer for one will offer a suggestion- bring back Stephen Chow!
(The star-studded cast make the best of the sporadically funny bits, but this glossily packaged film isn’t nearly amusing enough most of the time)
Review by Gabriel Chong