All’s Well, End’s Well 2012
Hong Kong/China, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 116 mins.
Directors: Chen Qingjia 陈庆嘉 [Chan Hing-kai], Qin Xiaozhen 秦小珍 [Janet Chun].
Latest instalment of the revived Hong Kong CNY comedy franchise is less brash and more charming.
Guangzhou, China, the present day. After an accident in her flat one day, Xia Fan (Gong Linna) has the idea of setting up a website for needy women looking for male assistance – the reward being just a hug, if everything goes successfully. She calls it baoxi.com [抱喜.com]. In Hong Kong, four different men decide to try it out. Long-haired, washed-up rock star Tan Guanrong (Zhen Zidan), who lives with a young air hostess (Ying Cai’er) and still dreams of making it again, offers to stand in at an important lunch as a “boyfriend” for Song Qiubo (Wu Junru), onetime member of girl singing duo Sample Virgins 处女标本, who’s now penniless, boyfriend-less and homeless. Ambitious construction worker Peng Jian (Gu Tianle) offers himself as a nude model to business-like photographer Julie Sun (Chen Huilin), who’s looking to make a name for herself. Lovelorn romantic novelist Hua Yixing (Du Wenze), who can’t get a girl because of his unattractive looks, offers to platonically squire innocent, blind young orphan Tan Xiao (Xiong Dailin), who wants to experience the feeling of love. Finally, unscrupulous lawyer Zhu Yugang (Huang Baiming), who’s hated by his teenage daughter (Wu Qianyu) and separated from his wife, offers to help potential billionaire heiress Chen Sisi (Yang Mi) choose a husband from three young suitors by posing as her late father; if she doesn’t get married by her 25th birthday next week, she won’t inherit her fortune.
After reinvigorating the veteran New Year comedy franchise with All’s Well End’s Well 2011 最强囍事 (2011), Hong Kong actor-producer Huang Baiming 黄百鸣 [Raymond Wong] takes it in a slightly different direction with the sixth entry, All’s Well, End’s Well 2012 八星抱喜. Less about money and success and knockabout humour, and more about making one’s fellow-citizens feel good and realising their dreams, it’s also more a collection of romantic comedy vignettes than a true ensemble movie, with the stories only slightly overlapping at the end and with the accent more on charm than Hong Kong brashness.
Despite all that, and despite a Mainland element in the funding and casting – with hottie du jour Yang Mi 杨幂 (a kind of modern-day Ye Zimei 叶子楣 [Amy Yip] with more personality), China-born actress Xiong Dailin 熊黛林, and an opening cameo by singer Gong Linna 龚琳娜 – it’s still thoroughly Hong Kong in character. Local veterans, pop singers, presenters and personalities – whose names mean little beyond the Cantonese universe – pop up left, right and centre in bit parts, with the superstructure entertainingly sustained by Zhen Zidan 甄子丹 [Donnie Yen], Gu Tianle 古天乐 [Louis Koo], Wu Junru 吴君如 [Sandra Ng], Chen Huilin 陈慧琳 [Kelly Chen], Du Wenze 杜汶泽 [Chapman To] and Wong himself.
Though it’s over-long at almost two hours, the film happily isn’t mired in any PC do-goodiness. In fact, it’s more retro in flavour, looking back to the 1970s, with Zhen, Wu and Du all sporting long wigs and Gu a giant, head-top quiff. Zhen and Wu make an especially good comic pair as two washed-up performers, with Zhen even singing (presentably) with a guitar; Du does a very funny impersonation throughout of director Chen Kexin 陈可辛 [Peter Chan], Wu’s husband in real life; and Gu spoofs his own romantic image as a Village People-like construction worker who does nude modelling and insists on speaking appalling English (“Why are you here? You are very sexy!”). Of the other leads, Chen is the best, as the bemused recipient of Gu’s advances.
Returning directors Chen Qingjia 陈庆嘉 [Chan Hing-kai] and Qin Xiaozhen 秦小珍 [Janet Chun] come up with their best-looking technical package to date, with d.p. Zhang Wenbao 张文宝 (the newcomer to the team) delivering warm, good-looking visuals and editor Zhang Jiahui 张嘉辉 [Cheung Ka-fai] smoothly cutting between each story every five minutes or so. The Chinese title departs from the series’ usual formula and instead puns on that of the rom-com Eighth Happiness 八星报喜 (1988), produced by Huang and directed by Du Qifeng 杜琪峰 [Johnnie To]. The two films’ plots are completely different.
Presented by LeTV Pictures (CN), Pegasus Motion Pictures (HK), Shanghai Hehe Film & TV Investment (CN).
Script: Chen Qingjia [Chan Hing-kai], He Miaoqi. Photography: Zhang Wenbao. Editing: Zhang Jiahui [Cheung Ka-fai]. Music: Zhao Zengxi [Chiu Tsang-hei], Zhang Renjie. Art direction: Huang Bingyao [Pater Wong]. Costumes: Huang Jiabao [Stephanie Wong], Ye Jiayin. Styling: Yu Jia’an [Bruce Yu]. Sound: Chen Zhijian. Action: Huang Weiliang [Jack Wong], Feng Weilun. Car stunts: Li Zhaoguang. Visual effects: Different Digital Design.
Cast: Zhen Zidan [Donnie Yen] (Tan Guanrong/Carl), Gu Tianle [Louis Koo] (Peng Jian/Holland), Wu Junru [Sandra Ng] (Song Qiubo/Chelsia), Chen Huilin [Kelly Chen] (Julie Sun), Huang Baiming [Raymond Wong] (Zhu Yugang/Richard), Yang Mi (Chen Sisi/Cecilia), Du Wenze [Chapman To] (Hua Yixing/Hugo), Xiong Dailin (Tan Xiao/Charmaine), Gong Linna (Xia Fan), Deng Zifeng (MC), Ying Cai’er [Cherrie Ying] (Tan Guanrong’s girlfriend), Chen Manna (Su Fei/Sophie), Zou Kaiguang [Matt Chow] (Yin, Su Fei’s lawyer), Hayama Hiro (Mo Xiaozhi), Wu Qianyu (Zhu Xiaomin, Zhu Yugang’s daughter), Lin Xue [Lam Suet] (Bingquan, Peng Jian’s workmate), Chen Bingquan (Helmet, Peng Jian’s workmate), Zheng Shihao (Clayhead, Peng Jian’s workmate), Singh Hartihan Bitto (Curry, Peng Jian’s workmate), Zhan Qiqing (foreign dignitary), Pan Jiening, Guo Shanyu (schoolgirls), Lu Mixue [Michelle Lo] (chief editor), Mai Lingling (Mai Lingling), Tian Ruini (Huang Danfei, Song Qiubo’s former singing partner), Maria Cordero (lunch host), Li Shangzheng (Huang Danfei’s manager), Lin Simin, He Junhong (new music stars), Zheng Shijun (Julie Sun’s assistant), Zheng Zhongji [Ronald Cheng] (Shalala), Li Xiangqin (orphanage head), Yu Mulian (He Biyun), Liu Ziqian (Lan Yihao, Chen Sisi’s suitor), Chen Yong (Fu Erdai, Chen Sisi’s suitor), Wen Chao (Deng Zuyin, Chen Sisi’s suitor), Hong Yongcheng (Cheng), Gu Dezhao [Vincent Kok] (Fattie), Feng Mianheng (Snake), Huang Yulang (Huang, boss), Fung Zhiqiang (Feng Feng), Huang Guoyi (Bai Xue), Lu Haoming (unlucky driver), Lin Zequn (doctor), Xu Tianyou (eye doctor), Xia Chunqiu (wedding registrar), Teresa Carpio, Li Bide, Zhang Jicong, Liu Haolong [Wilfred Lau] (themselves).
Release: Hong Kong, 20 Jan 2012; China, 20 Jan 2012.
(Review orginally published on Film Business Asia, 29 Mar 2012.)