Yuen Woo-Ping

Merry Christmas (聖誕快樂)

merry christmas

While this time capsule may have little to do with Christmas, there’s plenty of fun to get you into a festive mood. The movie stars Karl Maka, the comedian famous for his shaved dome, as a single man raising three kids. Technically, one tiny kid, Baldy Jr. (Cyrus Wong), and two grown children, Danny (Danny Chan) and Jane (Loletta Lee). Besides keeping an eye on things at home, he also holds a torch for his longtime neighbor Paula (Paula Tsui).

Merry Christmas is mostly an assortment of hijinks that show Baldy Mak to be a caring if somewhat salty average Joe. He’s not above pulling pranks to get a good parking space and, in one moment of instant karma, unwittingly destroys his new car. Meanwhile, another episode of questionable judgment has him and little Baldy bonding over some 3D porn. But he also does his best to protect his daughter’s womanhood and shares some affecting conversations with Danny over love and relationships. Besides, he’s well-liked at work, and it’s not often you’ve got the whole office in on a surprise birthday party for you.

Maka is in familiar form orchestrating the chaos around him. Chan and Lee each have a few standout moments, though Wong as an atypically expressive pint-sized actor steals the most scenes. Leslie Cheung also makes an early appearance, and he along with Angile Leung get to exercise some physical comedy as Jane and Danny’s romancers.

The plot steadies in the second half when Paula, a nightclub singer, announces that she’s moving to America to marry a cousin (Yuen Woo-Ping). It’s a race against the clock as Baldy and family concoct all sorts of schemes to force Paula into reconsidering. The most outrageous is one that will get post-Photoshop audiences laughing. The gawky Yuen elevates the comedy with a flurry of his trademark action. While Tsui doesn’t get as much to work with, she brings a matronly calm and warmth to the picture. Anyway, it’s not a demanding film but I find it to be a refreshing blast of family and holiday cheer.

“Waiting” (等) by Danny Chan, clip from the end of the movie (and one of my favorite songs ever):

獻君千闕歌 – theme song by Paula Tsui:

Released: 1984
Prod: Nansun Shi 施南生
Dir: Clifton Ko 高志森
Writer: Clifton Ko 高志森; Raymond Fung 馮世雄
Cast: Karl Maka 麥嘉; Paula Tsui 徐小鳳; Danny Chan 陳百強; Loletta Lee 李麗珍; Leslie Cheung 張國榮; Cyrus Wong 王嘉明; Yuen Woo-Ping 袁和平; Angile Leung 梁韻蕊
Time: 93 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

Mismatched Couples (情逢敵手)

mismatched couples

If you buy the Mismatched Couples DVD, you’ll find that distributer Fortune Star markets it under its “Legendary Collection,” which is only fitting because this is a true Hong Kong classic. For what it’s worth, which isn’t much, this is my favorite Donnie Yen movie. His second acting credit bears little resemblance to the severe no-nonsense ass-kicker most people think about when they see his name. Instead, his character in this movie, Eddie, is a mild-mannered college student who wears guyliner and just wants to break dance.

And who knew Yen was a dancing machine? I lament the light comedies that were not made in favor of Iron Monkey and Once Upon a Time in China II, spectacular as those films are. Yen along with costar and director Yuen Woo-Ping start the party off right and never really let up. The first few scenes feature nearly back-to-back acrobatics, making use of both their prodigious martial arts talent. Eddie has probably one of the best wake-up routines on screen and Mini, Yuen’s character, springs to life by waving around a bunch of sugar cane.

Their flexibility opens up a wide range of physical comedy. After Mini loses his job as a street vendor, Eddie invites him home where he lives with his uptight and single older sister Ah Ying (Wong Wan-Si) and cousin Stella (May Lo). Ah Ying doesn’t approve, and this leads to another memorable sequence in which Eddie and Stella try to hide their new friend in their tiny flat.

She reluctantly gives in, and the mismatched coupling storyline begins to take shape. Ah Ying tries to keep her affections for Mini hidden beneath her harsh demeanor while Stella is a little more forward with her feelings for Eddie. He, however, prefers Anna, maybe because she’s rich and can really rock a cherry leotard.

Most of the enjoyment doesn’t come from the plot though, which is pretty generic even if the actors inhabit their roles well. Both Wong and Lo bring out their characters’ personality and temperament in ways that make them more appealing than they are on paper. The real fun in this movie comes from Yen’s boundless energy, resulting in one goofy dance episode after another. Yuen and his action director/brother, Brandy Yuen, end up with something like a long narrative music video, replete with high tops, tracksuits, boomboxes, and sometimes tracksuits with a built-in boombox.

It isn’t until the end that the act gets a little tiresome, with a superfluous fight scene featuring a more familiar Donnie Yen. The only other issue I had was the characterization of Lynn (Chan Wai-Lin), a female body builder who’s used as comic relief and whose own romantic intentions are deemed laughable. Otherwise, this is one not to miss.

Donnie Yen being all kinds of awesome:

Released: 1985
Prod: Brandy Yuen 袁振洋
Dir: Yuen Woo-Ping 袁和平
Writer: Peace Group 和平小組; Cheng Man-Wah 鄭文華; Chui Jing-Hong 徐正康
Cast: Donnie Yen 甄子丹; Yuen Woo-Ping 袁和平; May Lo 羅美薇; Wong Wan-Si 黃韻詩; Kamiyama Anna 上山安娜; Dick Wei 狄威; Mandy Chan 陳志文; Kenny Perez; Chan Wai-Lin 陳蕙蓮
Time: 88 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014