A Lunar New Year comedies. They can be funny or unfunny, but usually they’re still crap. So it goes with All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010. The latest in a series of star-jammed junk food films that presume to be worth our laisee money. Brought to us by actor and supposed filmmaker Raymond Wong Bak-Ming.
The All’s Well, End’s Well movies possess the same formula no matter when or where they take place. Take a bunch of guys and girls, have them spar for ninety minutes via movie parodies and wordplay, before finally delivering a mega-mega happy ending featuring lots of smiles and singing. This type of unchallenging, family-friendly filmmaking can be money in the bank, so it’s no surprise that they try it out on a nearly yearly basis. If it happens, an actual good time is just a bonus.
Happily, this year you get that bonus. All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010 (Hoa Dien Hy Su 3) starts in a very flat manner and is still far from quality, and yet it possesses enough giggles to warrant a “good for what it is” evaluation. One might thank director Herman Yau, who helms alongside producer-writer-director-actor Raymond Wong, for making 2010 more palatable than All’s Well End’s Well 2009. 2010 possesses more subdued, less pandering direction than Vincent Kok’s 2009, but there’s still plenty here that doesn’t work. Many jokes are labored, the musical segments can be annoying, and some sequences are the height of boredom. This is formula, though, and it’s rare that a film in this genre can dismount with a solid “10”. All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010 gets a “6” or even a “7” if this genre floats your boat. Relatively speaking, that’s pretty good.
Set-up for Lunar New Year fluff is typically messy and convoluted, so let’s just dive right in. Louis Koo plays the Emperor, a childish ruler who cares about learning kung-fu and not much else. The Queen Mother (Lee Heung-Kam) wants a grandchild. But the Emperor avoids sleeping with his randy wife (Crystal Tin) in order to retain his virginity. Hope for a future generation rests on Princess Pearl (model Angelababy), but unfortunately she goes missing on her way back to the palace after a decade of overseas education.
In a sitcom mixup, the tall Nightingale (Lynn Xiong of Ip Man) ends up at the palace and everybody thinks she’s Pearl. Nightingale plays along, partly because of the palace riches (all her royal possessions are ancient versions of current brand names), but also because if she didn’t, there would be no movie. Ergo, she keeps up her unwilling deception and the film continues on its nonsensical way.
Meanwhile, Nightingale’s father Million Weng (Raymond Wong) is looking to marry off Nightingale to make up for a massive financial loss (a funny reference to the Lehman Brothers fiasco), but she’s still missing. Luckily, Million chances upon the amnesiac Pearl. So he pretends that she’s really Nightingale and tries to marry her to scholar Shang-Jin (Pan Yueming).
However, Shang-Jin is in love with someone else, namely the real Nightgale. But she missed their meeting date because she was off pretending to be Pearl. Simultaneously, Pearl’s lover General Bing (Ronald Cheng) is looking for her and somehow ends up meeting Shang-Jin’s aunt. Miss Sweetie (Sandra Ng), who’s immediately smitten with him. Bing sees the fake Nightingale and recognizes her as Pearl. But she doesn’t recognize him, and then somehow they all converge for a contest to win the hand of the fake Pearl. By “they”. I mean Shang-Jin, General Bing, and the still-amnesiac Pearl, who only enters the contest because the Emperor chanced into her cross-dressing and decided his real sister in drag would be the perfect match for his fake sister. Got that?
Of course you don’t, but that’s perfectly fine. Coherence rarely exists in these sorts of films, so if you’re the type who expects airtight narratives then you know to steer clear. Those who can forgive narrative sloppiness and labored jokes in exchange for stars acting like loons and the occasional inspired gag? All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010 comes through for you. The stars perform above par here. Louis Koo is now a pro at playing against his ladykiller looks, and here he’s at his overacting, mildly annoying best.
Raymond Wong isn’t as bad as he can be, while Sandra Ng is still an ace at selling even the most tired jokes. Model Lynn Xiong is photogenic, but doesn’t do much besides a few lame model catwalk sequences. Her screen partner, Pan Yueming, also makes a lesser impression. The surprises are Angelababy, who’s more animated than one would expect from a model-turned-actress. And Ronald Cheng, who actually turns in a strong comedic and dramatic performance. The film really has no pathos to speak of. But when required to actually act, Cheng nails it rather than mail in his performance.
Cheng’s professionalism is appreciated, especially since few people probably would have cared had he simply lazed through the film. All’s Well End’s Well 2009 was a major blockbuster despite being pretty lousy, with most of its effort expended on product placement for an online game, a China resort, and Raymond Wong himself. 2010 has product placement too. But it’s integrated in a much better manner, and there are some genuinely inspired and funny moments here.
The film’s Ip Man parody is especially good, with Louis Koo’s emperor taking on ten palace bodyguards with his own droll variation on Donnie Yen’s now infamous machine gun punches. Actual action is not bad either, with Ronald Cheng doing some minor, perfunctory fake fighting. Overall, All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010 (phim hai Hong Kong) is a real step up from last year’s entry in the series, and can easily be enjoyed as daffy, unpretentious silliness. It’s still crap, but knowing, enjoyable crap that rarely pretends to be anything than what it is. Modesty is something we should appreciate.