Director: Eric Tsang and Chung Shu Kai
Cast: Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eric Tsang, Sandra
Ng, Anita Yuen, Stanley Fung, Aarif Lee, Fala Chen, Mag Lam,
Chan Wing Lam, 6-Wing
RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins
Released By: Shaw & Clover Films
Opening Day: 2 February 2011
Shun (starring Tony Leung Ka Fai) grew up
in an estate in Aberdeen and has been away for the past 10
years. Today, he returned to the estate, not to visit his
aging father, but to seek refuge after a failed business.
Shun owned a factory in China and have not
visited his dad since he got married years ago. He reluctantly
returned to Aberdeen after his factory was forced to shutdown
due to numerous strikes. Shun and his wife Shun So (starring
Sandra Ng) have three children: Ming (starring Aarif Lee)
who works as a Food & Hygiene Officer; Chi (starring Mag
Lam) who is always star struck and wants to be a star; King
(starring Chan Wing Lam), an aggressive girl who knows kungfu.
Shun wants to start anew, but his family
has always been pampered and never experienced life in the
estate. Since returning to the estate, Shun remembers how
he was brought up: living with family in a small unit, overcoming
differences and knowing each other. It also dawned on Shun
that he did not know many things about his family: Ming is
actually embarrassed of his job as an officer with the Food
& Hygiene department; How Chi wants to be a model and
Only upon Shun’s return did he has
the time to think of issues in greater clarity. He noticed
that the once bustling estate is no longer what he remembered.
Everything is fast changing. Due to the hike in rentals and
the increasing regulations from the authority, many cozy neighborhood
shops are forced to close, making ways for big developments
and mega shopping malls.
It was during this depressing state when
Lung (starring Eric Tsang) appears, and things take a turn.
Lung and Shun used to be buddies, spending
time going around the estate to help the community. But 30
years ago, Lung was accused of fleeing with money raised for
a Charity drive from the community and disappeared ever since.
It was Shun’s father, Tong (starring Stanley Fung) who
offered to pay off what Lung had fled with. Little did Shun
expected Lung to appear and return Tong the amount he’d
Together with Lung, Shun present their proposal to rebuild
the estate and revived the past glory of the once bustling
scene. The community and neighborhood folks are thrilled with
the idea and contributed money and efforts to work towards
the rebuilding. Little did they expect, Lung once again, fled
with their money.
Bad things seem to be happening one after
another: after Lung’s departure, Wo-Mart, a foreign
mega-mart chain acquired most of the estate’s shop spaces,
and a typhoon is fast brewing. To make things more dramatic,
a pregnant lady of the neighborhood is going into labour amidst
the raging typhoon.
Facing these adverse conditions, folks of
the neighborhood eventually decides to pack up their sorrows,
unite and drum up their fighting spirit! Through these tough
times, they remembered how the used to brave through challenges
in the past… they are even more encouraged when they
managed to send the pregnant lady to the hospital for a safe
While the community is thinking of ways to
combat the challenges, Lung appears again. In fact, Lung did
not fled with the money raised, but he was planning on a counter-acquisition
Given the resounding box-office success of last year’s “72 Tenants of Prosperity”, it was inevitable that producer and co-director Eric Tsang would once again assemble an ensemble cast and return with yet another ‘he sui pian’ this year. “I Love Hong Kong” is a pseudo-sequel to “72 Tenants”, similar in both theme and structure, but swapping the star power of Jacky Cheung for Tony Leung Kar-Fai in the lead role.
Like “72 Tenants”, “I Love Hong Kong” is set in the present-day, but with frequent flashbacks to the past- in this case, the 1980s. These were the halcyon days when neighbours tended to be closer- both physically and emotionally- and more involved in each other’s lives. These were the days when there was a real sense of community, which has all but vanished in today’s society. Whereas his lament was the loss of kinship between family in “72 Tenants”, Eric bemoans the loss of kinship between neighbours here.
To illustrate his point, Eric and fellow director Chung Shu Kai often juxtaposes scenes of the present and the past set around a public housing estate in Aberdeen. This is the place where childhood buddies Shun (Bosco Wong as the younger self; Tony Leung as the older self) and Lung (Wong Cho-Nam as the younger self; Eric Tsang as the older self) grew up in the 80s, and where Shun returns with his family after a failed business venture. Lung turns up not long after, though a misunderstanding between the two in the past has left Shun distrustful of Long’s intentions.
But really, the plot here is no more than a device for Shun and Lung to reminisce about what life used to be in their estate- like the pair of sisters (played by a cross-dressed Louis Yuen) running the neighbourhood bakery whom they used to leer at together; or the pretty neighbourhood girl Lung had a crush on who moves out of their estate not long after winning Miss Hong Kong. Similar to our local film “It’s A Great Great World”, this is a nostalgia fest, albeit set in a different time and place, and told in the characteristic Hong Kong ‘mo lei tau comedy’ manner.
That means plenty of slapstick, including one LOL sequence where Shun and Lung pretend to be blind and mute respectively while visiting their favourite neighbourhood bakery, and another equally hilarious one where the whole neighbourhood chips in to deliver a baby in the middle of a thunderstorm. That also means the occasional amusing verbal quip- such as Shun’s wife pronunciation of “twenty” in Mainland-accented Cantonese- and nonsensical movie parody- such as Lam Suet’s band of ‘men in black suits’ kicking around a ball of crushed paper a la Johnnie To’s “The Mission”.
If the value of a ‘he sui pian’ is measured by its laugh quotient, then “I Love Hong Kong” offers that in spades. Unfortunately, even by the genre’s meagre standards, the plotting here leaves much to be desired. Despite setting up numerous plot threads for its multitude of characters, none of them really goes anywhere, with most of them over and done with in just two or three scenes- at least its predecessor “72 Tenants” bothered to give some degree of elaboration to the supporting characters.
So as Shun’s wife, Sandra Ng gets little to do other than being humiliated as an employee in a slimming centre or jealous over her husband’s ex-lover cum acupuncturist (Anita Yuen)- though she does have a side-splitting scene acting as TVB star Maggie Cheung’s stand-in opposite reigning TVB Best Actor Wayne Lai. Faring even worse are Aarif Lee as Shun’s son Ming and an officer of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) arresting illegal street hawkers, or Fala Chen as Ming’s girlfriend whose dad is one of those Ming arrests; or Mag Lam as a model wannabe whom Luk Wing’s nerdy photographer has a crush on. What you read here is probably as much development as these characters actually get, so you know just how superficial they really are.
But of course, it’s not as if any of the ensemble cast, assembled mostly from TVB’s stable, mind. No, not even Tony Leung or Sandra Ng, who seem to be enjoying themselves thoroughly through the host of physical and verbal gags. And so should you, since this ensemble comedy does possess enough laughs within its frenetic pace to leave a smile on your face. Those expecting narrative coherence or character development have probably come to the wrong place- but those looking for a feel-good CNY comedy will find this an amusing and even occasionally hilarious affair that will put you in the right spirit for the festive season.
(Filled with an irrepressible CNY feel-good spirit that any ‘he sui pian’ should have, this ensemble comedy generates enough laughs to leave a smile on your face)
Review by Gabriel Chong