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I was always told that trans-lingual comedy films are never funny. That if you're not Chinese, well you're not even going to crack a smile. Well they've obviously never seen this film. Made in Hong Kong, "Gai tung aap gong" is absolutely one of the best comedy films I have ever seen. Michael Hui, a legendary comedy star in Hong Kong, plays a character Ah Hui, who runs a traditional HK Duck shop. Things are going well until a fast-food store by the name of "Danny Chicken" opens up across the street and begins to draw the crowds away. For Ah Hui, this means war! Such scenes as Ah Hui sneaking into Danny Chicken dressed as an Indian woman, the Chicken and Duck mascot brawl, the James Bond-style investigation of the "secret ingredients", and the Danny Chicken training class are, in my opinion, all-time comedy classics.
I suppose you could argue that this movie relies on an extremely silly
and a great deal of stupid, almost juvenile, jokes. And I suppose this is
true... but there are so *many* of the jokes, and they're all so
It's a wonderful movie, watchable over and over, and superior to just about all of the Hollywood comedies of late. This, and "The Private Eyes", are also great examples of Hong Kong movies which are very accessible and entertaining to audiences worldwide, without compromising their own uniquely Chinese aspects.
The "Chicken and Duck Talk" was one of the classic films produced by
Hong Kong's film industry in its heydays from 1980 to 1995. The story
itself is simple enough: an old mom-and-pop restaurant suddenly faces a
new flashy competition in the form of a fast food store, and Michael
Hui as the owner of the restaurant struggled but succeeded in winning
the battle for business after reimaging his business. On a purely
entertainment level, Michael Hui with his side-slap comedy skills,
entertain audiences with various hyperbolic acts, which should keep the
audience entertained on a bored night. This is a perfectly legitimate
perspective to view the film but it misses the deeper theme.
Underneath the comedic acts, Hui managed to convey the concept of no matter how good traditional ideas/things are, if you can't market them by making them look pleasing and attractive to bells-and-whistles obsessed shallow modern/postmodern generations, you stand no chance against competitors that are all-show-but-no-depth. If you managed to get this point, congratulations, you are watching the film at a deeper level than 98% of Hong Kong's population, who by and large have failed to appreciate the themes beyond the general concept of good guys overcoming baddies.
And yet another deeper theme that has only gradually started to be appreciated in the early 21st century is the theme of traditional mom-and-pop businesses full of sentimental attachments versus the efficient but heartless modern enterprises. It may not be a wholly accurate depiction by Hui after all - there are plenty of cold heartless tyrants amongst mom-and-pop shops in Hong Kong and also plenty of good multinational companies, but it does give us pause to consider whether we have sacrificed our interpersonal relationships for the sake of modern developments, and whether this must follow the waves of globalization. This theme is still far too radical and anathema for a vast majority of Hong Kong people even 20 years on, who worship at the altars of "economic development above all" and the "out with the old, in with the new" mentality, and as far as I know the film pundits who have raised this point are either from the West or Taiwan.
All this is not surprising if you are aware Hui holds a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong before he entered the entertainment industry. He knows how to document the good and ills of a society and offer commentaries via visual media. Will the film's deeper themes be appreciated in Hong Kong one day? Hopefully so, if Hong Kong wants to regain its soul.
Michael Hui is a veritable institution in the Hong Kong film industry. He single-handedly (ok, with his brothers Ricky and Sam) resuscitated the Cantonese film after decades of neglect owing to the Mandarin Shaw Brothers company's popularity. His films in the 1970s are classics. But this film, made at the height of his powers in 1988, must be one of the all-time finest comedies to come out of Hong Kong film industry. He plays the miserly proprietor of a BBQ Duck restaurant facing stiff competition from a new chicken fast-food joint. The gags are really superb stuff, including a dance routine with rats and cockroaches et al. There are too many to note. I have never laughed out so loud at a Hong Kong comedy and it must ranks as the best until Carol Cheng's 1990 "Her Fatal Ways". Most notably "Chicken and Duck Talk" has aged gracefully too, as Michael has himself.
This is another fun Hong Kong comedy starring Michael Hui and Ricky Hui
(their younger Sam Hui has a cameo appearance). Here, Hui (Michael Hui)
runs a restaurant with a tasty roast duck recipe. However, his
employees and customers have to endure the a run-down and unsanitary
looking restaurant - Hui's way of cutting maintenance cost. Hui might
have to rethink his strategy when an American-style fast-food
restaurant opens across the street.
It's a nice little movie with some laughable moments and decent acting, with Michael and Ricky delivering their unique comedy brand that will sure entertain the audience. Sylvia Chang, Lowell Lo, Wing-Cho Yip and Kai-Nam Ho all make a great team in making the plot pretty exciting by making the audience guess how they will be able to pull off competing with the popular fast food restaurant.
The movie is not as suspenseful or funny as previous Hui Brothers films like The Contract and Security Unlimited, but it's still great comedy that surpasses many of today's films of the 00s and on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am so disappointed that I can't buy a copy of this film. SBS Australia did an excellent sub-titled version which has made for the local popularity of this film. Only in a HK comedy would a cockroach pass for a Chinese date greedily munched under the health inspector's nose or caged rats get surreptitiously sneaked into a rival's restaurant. Gross-out is the order of the day. And this is all in good fun. The traditional Chinese-style promotional duck suit is really subtle comedy and a total delight to watch in all-out bad Kung Fu war with the chicken-suited rival tout. Is a shining clean Western fast-food joint the ant's pants and bee's knees? Not if you're after the true Cantonese dining experience, it's not. Love it! Please find a way to bring this one to DVD.
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