Monday, December 5, 2011

East Meets West 2011 | 东成西就 2011 [ Movie Review] ★★

The Pitch

Back in 1993, director Jeffrey Lau and a group of well known Hong Kong celebrities of that period, gave us The Eagle Shooting Heroes 东成西就, a memorable parody of Louis Cha's The Legend of the Condor Heroes (射雕英雄传). Folks who had seen it would probably remember the Tony Leung's sausage lips gag, the centipede torture and many more. Needless to say, it was one of Jeffrey Lau's outstanding works in his long history of "Mo Lei Tau" comedies.

Flash forward to today, director Jeffrey Lau is back with another 东成西就 (East Meets West 2011). Although it's not a parody of The Legend of the Condor Heroes, it follows the same format of having an ensemble of the famous stars in the current Hong Kong / China entertainment field. While a handful of them are famous enough to match their 1993 counterparts, the rest are mainly made up of relatively new stars and folks whom I have not heard of. Other than that, it features Kenny Bee, the only actor that appeared on both movies.

Personally, I am a fan of Jeffrey Lau's movies. Even though he had some misses (eg A Chinese Tall Story), he also help created some of the classic Mo Lei Tau comedies from Hong Kong (A Chinese Odyssey, All for the Winner and etc). Although his recent features (Just Another Pandora's Box and The Fantastic Water Babes) were panned by most online reviews that I had came across, I thought they were pretty enjoyable. Here's hopping that Jeffrey Lau would be able to achieve something special with this ensemble that makes this new update East Meets West 2011 worthy of it's Chinese title 东成西就. 

The Plot

Funny Meh?
Xiaoming (Karen Mok 莫文蔚) and her father Ah B (Kenny Bee 锺镇涛) are on the run from debt collectors. It turned out that Jia Jia (Huang Yi 黄奕), Ah B's unreliable wife (who also happened to be Xiaoming's ex classmate and stepmom) had accepted a deposit to set up a concert featuring the Wynners (Kenny Bee's famous Hong Kong pop band from the late seventies to the early eighties). It's an impossible mission as all the members of Wynners (except Ah B) are too busy to perform in this concert.

While the father and daughter are on their way to rescue Jia Jia from Mainland tycoon Zhou Dong (Eason Chan 陈奕迅), they came across a eccentric taxi driver Wen (William So 苏永康) who happens to be fanatic actor wannabe. On their quest to form a musical group, they came across Jade (Sitar Tan Weiwei 谭维维) a rich man's daughter who left the life of wealth for a musical career and her money minded butler Bing (Jaycee Chan 房祖明). Before they could make their way to meet Zhou Dong to rescue Jia Jia, they had a fiery car crash accident with Da Xiong (Ekin Cheng 郑伊健), a mute dumpling chef.

Da Xiong's son witness how these group of individuals became superheroes during the accident and escaped unscratched. He told the survivors that they were seven immortals that's been betrayed and killed by the eighth immortal. The legend has it that they are destined to be reborn as humans with no knowledge of their past and eventually, they would have to fight the evil eighth immortal. Naturally, the kid was dismissed as a liar until they found out about their supernatural power.

I like how you cut my hair ...
Meanwhile, Xiaoming became smitten by Zhou Dong and came out with a wacky plan to hold the "Wynners" concert. Things were going well until a shadowy mysterious figure (Stephy Tang 邓丽欣) came and wreck havoc. In times of distress, the seven individuals transformed into super powered heroes to rescue the concert goers from the destruction.

Could this be the eight immortal that they been waiting for? Will these seven immortals survive the battle with the power hungry immortal when their previous incarnations had failed?

The Perspective

East Meets West 2011 was a major disappointment. I am not sure if there was any creative inputs from the China bosses but since it's Jeffery Lau's name on the writer and director credits, he probably should bare the major bulk of this disparage. In recent years, his movies had suffered from his self indulgence with his sense of comedy and story that interest him. Sometimes, it hits the right spot but in East Meets West 2011 case, it was a horrid waste of time and talent.

But how do you critically review a "Mo Lei Tau" (nonsensical) movie? I am going to compare it with The Eagles Shooting Heroes and Just Another Pandora's Box, two of previous Jeffery Lau's movies.

Both East Meets West 2011 and Just Another Pandora's Box suffered from patchy storyline but what helped Just Another Pandora's Box was that it didn't have to suffered from the overcrowding of "main" characters in East Meets West 2011. There was a central love story of Ronald Cheng's character and the Rose fairy (Betty Sun) with the rest of the stars as supporting characters to that love story. In East Meets West 2011, all the "stars" are laden with their own stories and around the halfway mark, it seemed that the director realized that the movie had to focus on the main love story that revolving between Xiaoming (Karen Mok) and Zhou Dong (Eason Chan). Subsequently all the other subplots were either minimize or abandon.

Nothing for me to do?
Of all the characters that were affected, Ekin Cheng's Da Xiong and Huang Yi's Jia Jia suffered the most. It seemed that there were some build up between Da Xiong, his son and his ex wife but nothing was made up of it. Jaycee Chan had a special appearance / cameo billing but it turned out that Ekin Cheng had less screen time or things to do in this movie.

Ekin Cheng might not be the most talented artist around these days but among this cast, he is one of the most well known and to see his role reduced into a forgettable cameo, it's just kinda sad.

Likewise, Huang Yi's Jia Jia character was destined to have a never ending feud with Xiaoming. After a few squabblers, her character was discarded and were only brought back for some gags. Their resolution came quickly and there was very little emotional impact between the two. It makes one wonder why bother with her character at all. Just another waste of talent.

Are We Stars?
lucky they hide half my face
Comparing East Meets West 2011 with The Eagles Shooting Heroes, the first and foremost thing that's lacking was star factor. Given that Eason Chan, Karen Mok, Kenny Bee and Ekin Cheng are all well know personalities in the Asian region, the rest of the East Meets West 2011 stars are not exactly stars qualities (as compared to their counterparts in The Eagles Shooting Heroes). Who is this Sitar Tan Weiwei? Will Jaycee Chan still have a career in the entertainment business if his father is not Jackie Chan? Is William So still singing? I also wonder if Stephy Tang is popular in the Singapore market?

Movies of such nonsensical nature requires a certain star quality to it. It would allow the audience to like the characters quicker as there's hardly any material in such genre to do such buildup. It also allows comedy to arise from a play in their well known personality. These are stuff that you can't do with a relative bunch of unknown / wannabes / up and coming stars. It's possible to do such nonsensical comedy with relatively unknowns but they must have a strong sense of comedy and comedy performance. As again, it's lacking with those that's picked for this movie.

Beside that, the handling of the characters was a mess in East Meets West 2011. There were just as many characters in The Eagles Shooting Heroes and yet they well woven to support each other stories. In East Meets West 2011, you could remove a few of the characters and it wouldn't affect the gist of this story. That how disposable the characters are in this movie.

Last but not least, what The Eagles Shooting Heroes and Just Another Pandora's Box had that East Meets West 2011 didn't was that most of the characters from the previous spoof comedies were well known. Even though some of the eight immortals names sound rather familiar, I believed that they were mainly characters that made from scratch and it's just difficult to handle so many characters at the same time.

East Meets West 2011 might have been better if the focus was on Karen Mok and Eason Chan's character from the start. Reduce the other star roles into secondary supporting ones like the ones in Just Another Pandora's Box and remove all traces of their background stories. This movie had a fairly good theme of redemption and pure love. It just a pity that it muddled the story with allocating screen time for the stars.

Rating : **

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