Spreading the Love
One of the final film offerings this year for the Lunar New Year, I Love Hong Kong 2012 blinked first and got relegated out of the lucrative holiday long weekend, and that may dent its already slim hopes of a respectible box office returns since almost everyone here knows that the comical flavour of a Hong Kong film will almost all be lost due to the Mandarin dubbing. But those expecting plenty of nonsensical mo-lei-tau humour may be surprised that this version has a little bit more narrative structure to its formulaic plot, that like its All's Well Ends Well rival, ends with resolution for the star-studded couples in question, and a moralistic lesson thrown in that family matters at the end.
The story centers around the romantic and kinship trials and tribulation of the Kwok family, headed by Kwok Jing (Stanley Fung), the patriarch who has been in the weather broadcasting news reporting service for decades, unable to break into anchoring a news program for his company. A blooper during the covering of a typhoon led to his son Kwok Fu Seng (6 Wing), his cameraman, being voluntarily let go as the scapegoat, as we learn that from his rival at work Ms Shen (Shaw Yin Yin) that the company has been recently acquired by William So's Roberto, an egoistical maniac conglomerate king who has four Thai transvestites as bodyguards.
Kwok's brother (Mak Cheung-Ching) is a good for nothing loafer who free loads in his home, and his children's all have personal relationship issues to deal with. There's the return of Teresa Mo as Kwok Mei Mei, a successful lawyer married to a less than successful husband Yao Ming (Eric Tsang) who essentially serves as the butler for the entire household, with the couple having to struggle with childlessness, a busty foster daughter from China, as well as the keeping up of appearances in high society circles. Denise Ho stars as Kwok Jing Jing, a tomboy supermarket manager whose beau is the effeminate top selling salesman (Bosco Wong) in the same supermarket she works in, who may have to fasttrack their path to marriage when she discovers she got knocked up. And son Fu Seng who on his last day of work falls in love with Roberto's latest squeeze Vivian (Vivian Zhang), and conjures up plenty of tricks to try and woo her.
Not all the jokes hit their mark though, and in many ways having too many screenwriters (I counted around 10) meant a potential to be a messy affair, though I suspect that some had contributed only to certain segments since the comical moments were quite compartmentalized. So we have slapstick reserved for Teresa Mo and Eric Tsang to deliver, with the best being their bedroom ritual involving cosplaying as superheroes, and jokes about sexuality centered around Denise Ho and Bosco Wong's characters since they're opposites that work, like When Hainan Meets Teochew in certain ways. The more mo-lei-tau moments were left to the 6 Wing and Vivian Zhang segment, with the guys buddying up to assist Fu Seng in his quest for their personal ulterior motives, before Fu Seng has to go for it on his own when the rest have more pressing matters on their own fronts to attend to.
You would have thought the screenwriters of rival films All's Well Ends Well and I Love Hong Kong might have compared notes to decide upon providing a structure framework to craft their stories in, because compared to the previous installments, those were more laissez-faire and had almost everything including the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. This time round with a little bit more discipline the trade off was less comical moments or spoofs - only the one for You Are The Apple of My Eye had prominence, and at times may sound a little bit preachy with its moral message about a family that sticks together to emerge stronger at the end even if the world should end.
For a Lunar New Year film, there's this underlying, less than auspicious treatment with a narrative fixation about the end of the world, clearly playing on the much talked about end of the world Mayan prophecy. For those who want to go to the cinemas during this period to laugh out loud at a light hearted comedy, this may prove to be counter-productive even if the subject matter was treated lightly, with various weather anomalies being experienced, which will be explained in due course naturally to keep things still celebratory. And it was also a curious affair to have Auld Lang Syne for a Chinese New Year film in the final scene where all the stars from Shaw's television stable come out to break the fourth wall for the Lunar New Year greetings that didn't happen, choosing instead to do a choppily edited song and dance sequence that you'd have to struggle to identify your favourite television personality - the one in the trailer shows more, so that tells you something.
But this film served as a welcome return for the likes of Teresa Mo and William So who have been away from the big screen for the longest time, with the former still showing her class of good comic timing is not lost, while the latter playing it really hard as the unlikeable conglomerate executive. If you're fans of either of them then this film is for you.