Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Princess & Seven Kung Fu Masters (笑功震武林 / Xiao Gong Zhen Wu Lin)

Heroic Trio

Earlier this year, prolific Hong Kong director Wong Jing showed that he's still capable of making films with a certain degree of sophistication and class with The Last Tycoon, but I suppose he's only at his element when he can be involved with movies that are within his comfort zone of mass market comedies. With a bevy of stars from Hong Kong and China at his disposal, Princess & Seven Kung Fu Masters may seem to pun on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, though this spin off of sorts come with that distinct Hong Kong comedic flavour, with martial arts thrown into the mix.

The movie gets a little schizophrenic, with two very vastly different treatments rolled into one. There's the serious side of the film, which is set in China''s post Qing dynasty era of the Warlords rule, filled with Japanese infiltrators and clans who find no qualms in defecting to the enemy, and there's the funny side where Hong Kong comedy elements get significant airtime, thanks to regular comedians in the film such as Sandra Ng, Eric Tsang, Ronald Cheng and Wong Cho Lam lending star presence to join Yuen Wah, Natalie Meng and Xie Na as the titular seven martial arts exponents. Obviously they have to rely on plenty of special effects, stunt people and wire-fu to execute their moves.

As the story goes, it took a leaf out of Stephen Chow's Kung Fu, which also has expert exponents hiding out in an idyllic village. Here, the mentioned seven retired at Lucky Star Village, and occassionally get to demonstrate their prowess to protect the villagers from marauding bandits. But otherwise most of the comedy come from the various romantic entanglements between the characters, having to suppress their emotions for those that they're infatuated with. It did drag on for a bit, with The Little Tailor (Wong Cho Lam) trying to kill himself after failing to win over Cheryl (Kimmy Tong), the Priest (Yuen Wah) finding it difficult to woo brothel owner Maggie (Natalie Meng) because he has neither money nor looks, and the triangle between Little Trumpet (Ronald Cheng), Madonhung (Xie Na) and Madonna (Sandra Ng) that could have been better explored if expanded.

On the other hand, there's Sammo Hung's Generalissimo Warlord Lin character who dotes on his daughter Cheryl, while being threatened by Japanese secret agent and ninja Kiyoko Kurosawa (Monica Mok) and her clan of turncoats from the Tiger's Den Clan, and that of a bunch of revolutionaries whose leader is decked in Chen Zhen inspired garb, trying to get the Lucky Star village's exponents to join them in their fight against the enemy. But of course this is an outright comedy, so any heavy themes get thrown out the window as soon as they get introduced. And like most Hong Kong action blockbusters, the best bits got held up until the finale where it's pandemonium, all man for himself fisticuffs, with that all too familiar type of family friendly treatment.

Those who miss big budgeted Hong Kong action movie spectacles may find this film far more enjoyable than those who don't care much about this genre. With Wong Jing at the helm sharing co-director responsibilities, this is definitely one of the better Hong Kong comedies to have come from the territory this year, even if the gag reel got toned down from the usual sexual overtones that the director is well known for. Toilet humour though, is largely kept intact. Now if only we could have this in Cantonese...

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