With the franchise given new lease of life last year, with even Raymond Wong and Sandra Ng making their way to Singapore on a whirlwind tour to promote the slated for Lunar New Year comedy, it comes up against the other CNY offering of 72 Tenants of Prosperity from Shaw Brothers and TVB, pitting both head on except for local distributors who decide to keep them a week apart from cannibalizing on each other. Both feature an ensemble cast, but comparing the two, 72 Tenants have got my vote as the better one should you need to watch a Chinese comedy this holiday season.
AWEW2010 reunites the principal cast of Raymond Wong, Sandra Ng, Louis Koo, Raymond Cheng, Lee Heung Kam and Ha Chun-Chau from the reinvigorated predecessor, and they are joined by relative new faces Angela Baby, Lynn Hung, Kristal Tin and Pan Yueming taking up madcap roles in this feel good movie which follows the formula of desperados seeking love through extreme comedy measures, and by the end of it round it all up with a mass marriage. This is the formula from the start of the franchise more than a decade ago, and I suppose is signature of the series to warrant any changes.
The story's kept pretty simple to follow, set in the fictional kingdom of Hua Tien, where Louis Koo's Emperor Ocean holds court, being a kung-fu fanatic who tries to master fantastical martial arts made famous in Louis Cha's novels. Awaiting the arrival of his sister Princess Wai Chu (Angela Baby) who's under the protection of lover and General Bing (Raymond Cheng), the Princess got lost in an ambush, only to be rescued by Million Wong (Raymond Wong), who decided that the amnesiac Wai Chu pose as his own missing daughter Ying (Lynn Hung) to be married off to the Ng scion (played by Pan Yueming), whose aunt is a stereotypical role that Sandra Ng excels in and can play with her eyes closed.
It's a mix up of identities something like the Prince and the Pauper, only this time to involve 2 girls and their respective 2 suitors, with peripheral characters complicating all the relationship matters here through the concealing of intentions for personal material gain. Being a light hearted romp, don't go about expecting any depth to the characters, who can flip flop like the wind as the situation calls for it, in order to bring in the laughs. Spoofs also do not go unnoticed, and the biggest one here happen to be that of Ip Man again, though this time around (after 72 Tenants) it doesn't seem to be funny anymore.
Which is unfortunate because the entire movie doesn't have too many genuinely funny moments. Yes it can be ridiculous, but it doesn't even come across as mo-lei-tau funny at all. Granted that this is the Mandarin version and some jokes could have been lost in translation, frankly this is one time that I don't find that this is the case. The jokes fell flat most of the time, and really tried so hard that each scene came across in a very contrived manner. Some instances of Cantonese were left intact, mostly the song and dance sequence. For those who are still standing on the “Keep Hong Kong Movies in Mandarin” side of the fence, tell me with a straight face that you can sit through the ending song that was dubbed and sung so horrendously, it makes my bathroom singing all the more melodic.
I'm not sure if this film has the legs to carry on for another episode next year, but if it does then let's hope that the cast can be reunited under a more coherent, wittier script in order to bring about fun and laughter like it was supposed to.