The Fortune Buddies (勁抽福祿壽)

fortune buds

It’s been a rough ride for the average Hong Konger. In a landscape that’s fed an impotent government, untamed property prices, and cross-border tensions, it falls on the local free-to-air television station, TVB, to bring a little moral encouragement to the city’s residents. The Fortune Buddies attempts to do this by taking the can-do spirit of TVB’s recent Chinese New Year ventures (72 Tenants of Prosperity, I Love Hong Kong) and transferring it to a successful variety show, Fun with Liza and the Gods.

In this case, the gods, a comedic trio consisting of Wong Cho-Lam, Johnson Lee, and Louis Yuen, do without television mainstay Liza Wang. They portray hapless unemployed friends, each one nursing his own issue. Wong is having trouble winning over his girlfriend’s (Fiona Sit) father (Eric Tsang), Lee keeps a healthy distance from his wealthy dad (Richard Ng), and Yuen is a single father on shaky terms with his triad boss ex (Fala Chen). They get a chance to prove themselves when a group of inflated American wrestlers comes to Hong Kong, resulting in a decisive fight not just for a plush payout but for the city’s honor.

There are certainly hints of that invincible Hong Kong resolve present here, and it’s dressed up with distinct touches to reward the dedicated TVB viewer. Besides capitalizing on the comedians’ talents for singing, dancing, impersonations, and appearing in drag, the station references its own hit shows and squeezes countless cameos from its contract actors. These are mostly played for cheap chuckles, although seeing Lam Suet as a street wrestler in a constant state of undress is no laughing matter. The gags do not merit the feature film treatment, and Fortune Buddies even acknowledges its superfluousness. An extra criticizes the buddies who try their hand at street performing. “You can just watch it on tv. Why do we have to watch it here?” to which there is no satisfying answer.

What this movie needs but lacks is the warmth of the previous TVB efforts. While it rallies Hong Kongers with its local flavor, the ultimate source of the characters’ grievances is misplaced. The villain takes the form of bullying white American wrestlers, aided by an ambitious Hong Konger (Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee). But colonialism is not at issue. The film alludes to problems of meaningful employment and the wealth gap but takes the lazy way out and blames foreigners. This is cynical escapism, and in the short term, it’s more satisfying to beat up the big, bad Americans.

Released: 2011
Prod: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai 曾志偉; Tommy Leung Ka-Shu 梁家樹
Dir: Chung Shu-Kai 鍾澍佳
Writer: Wong Yeung-Tat 黃洋達
Cast: Wong Cho-Lam 王祖藍; Louis Yuen Yiu-Cheung 阮兆祥; Johnson Lee Sze-Chit 李思捷; Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei 薛凱琪; Eric Tsang Chi-Wai 曾志偉; Pauline Wong Siu-Fung 王小鳳; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Fala Chen Fa-La 陳法拉; Michael Tse Tin-Wah 謝天華; Richard Magarey; Dean Thompson; Kyle Simms; Crystal Tin Yue-Lai 田蕊妮; Richard Ng Yiu-Hon 吳耀漢; Crystal Ko Hoi-Ling 高海寧; Hanjin Tan Han-Jin 陳奐仁; Grace Wong Kwan-Hing 王君馨; Kaki Leung Ka-Kei 梁嘉琪; Koo Ming-Wah 古明華; Evergreen Mak Cheung-Ching 麥長青; Terence Tsui 小肥; Sire Ma Choi 馬賽; Tai Yiu-Ming 戴耀明; King Kong 金剛; Mak Ling-Ling 麥玲玲; Carlo Ng Ka-Lok 吳家樂; Lin Xiawei 林夏薇; Oscar Leung Lit-Wai 梁烈唯; Lam Suet 林雪; Wong Ching 王青; Calvin Choi Yat-Chi 蔡一智; Jess Sum Cheuk-Ying 沈卓盈; Adrian Chau Chi-Man 周志文; Auston Lam Si-Kit 林師傑; Angel Chiang Ka-Man 蔣家旻; Eliza Sam Lai-Heung 岑麗香; Albert Tam Wing-Chuen 譚永銓; Florence Kwok Siu-Wan 郭少芸; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Susan Tse Suet-Sum 謝雪心; Gill Mohindepaul Singh 喬寶寶; Bosco Wong Chung-Chak 黃宗澤
Time: 92 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2013