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Fantasy adventure about the arrival of Buddhism in China. When the Goddess of Happiness tosses the Longevity Monk and his disciples out of heaven (because the Monkey King tried to attain immortality), the Monkey King is reincarnated as the Joker. He now spends his time chasing two jealous women. When one of them is dying, the Joker goes back in time in an attempt to save her. Written by
The Funniest and Absolutely Epic Comedy in the Chinese Fantasy Genre.
There is no doubt in my mind that Stephen Chow is a true master of mixing surreal comedy, romance and drama in most of his films that he has written and directed. But hold on, he didn't write or direct this film that was made way back in the mid 90s! But it sure feels like a Chow directed film. In fact, Jeffrey Lau wrote and directed and this is my first introduction to his films. It seems to me that Stephen Chow may have learnt much from Lau when directing his later movies and indeed style of comedy. Its just so similar but even the deserved global success of Chow's Kung Fu Hustler and Shaolin Soccer can't topple Lau's crowning achievement of this glorious comedy fantasy epic.
But you do have to attune yourself to their style of comedy. At times the comedy is rather Naked Gun style but the BIG difference is that with a Naked Gun/Airplane style movie you are never emotionally involved with the character's journey/fates. This is a real epic Chinese fantasy adventure chock full of side splitting comedy, drama, time travel, love triangles, deceit, tragedy and old school wire-work martial arts. Not many movies can boast such a varied concoction and even fewer can pull it off in such a knockout cocktail. Close comparisons for me are Zu Warriors and A Chinese Ghost Story.
The story actually moves at a breakneck speed despite the fact it is drawn out into a 2 part epic saga. Chow is at his very best in his dead pan (Buster Keatonesque) comic timing and furthermore gives an emotional underlining subtext in his performance much akin to the great Charlie Chaplin classics.
The comedy is inventively laugh out loud but always rooted to the storyline and never stooping low for a cheap laugh. The storyline is set firmly in the Chineses mythological realm of gods and demons and apparently extracting a chapter from a famous Chinese story called Journey to the West, putting its own spin on things.
Its not a flawless movie though, and one cannot expect it to be with such an ambitious premise and so much elements thrown in. While the first part of this epic is the more comedic, the second part begins with a somewhat convoluted progression of the storyline and becomes quite confusing with too many women involved in a long multiple women juggling segment. It is my only gripe, however.
I personally would also have loved to see more of the arrogant, fun and cool Monkey King persona but I can understand that more of him may not have served the story pacing well. Pity though, as the Monkey King is a really fun character here than I've seen elsewhere including the fun Monkey Magic television series.
My review covers both parts of this film as a whole. So in a nutshell, this is a vastly entertaining, side-splittingly funny, fast moving, emotionally driven Chinese fantasy epic. And I will now be seeking to watch more Jeffery Lau films as well as Stephen Chow's early movies.
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