Hong Kong/China, 2011, colour, 2.35:1, 98 mins.
Director: Jiang Guomin 姜国民 [Venus Keung].
An okay kid’s adventure comedy, shot in China, from the Wang Jing [Wong Jing] factory.
Beijing, the present day. Top commercials director Jiang Huini (Zhang Bozhi) is asked by company head Zhu (Li Guohua) to direct a commercial with veteran action star Gao Dalong (Zheng Zhongji), a womanising alcoholic, on the tiny deserted island of Xieyang, near Weizhou island, off the coast of Beihai, Guangxi province. She only agrees to the week’s work when Zhu promises to fund her dream project, the children’s feature film Priceless Treasure 无价之宝. Her husband Lu Zhiming (Zheng Yijian) is unhappy about her decision, and leaves home with their four-year-old son Lu Xiaojia (Xie Zhenxuan). On the trip, Gao Dalong brings along his young daughter Gao Sisi (Liu Miaoke), plus his manager He Nengwei (Wang Jing) and the latter’s young son He Ji’an (Zhang Keyuan). Also among the crew is actress Niu Jingjing (Zhuang Simin). On the docks in Weizhou they bump into Snake (Liu Hua) and his gang who, unknown to Jiang Huini and her crew, are also going to Xieyang to hunt for the Seven Stars Treasure, a gift by a Javan lord to a Ming dynasty emperor that was stolen by Du Wei, a general. Snake forced the map out of Ming dynasty scholar Liu (Wang Hucheng) but still cannot decipher some of its riddles. As they set out for Xieyang, Jiang Huini takes on as a replacement for her sick assistant director a young woman called Beibei (Zhou Qiqi), whom Gao Dalong met in a bar. Arriving on Xieyang, the film crew doesn’t realise that Cobra & Co. are already encamped on the other side. And when Gao Dalong, who can’t actually do any martial arts, is injured, they also discover the island is not uninhabited.
With his two  summer Treasure movies – shot in China with almost identical key technical crews – even the harshest critics of prolific Hong Kong producer-director Wang Jing 王晶 [Wong Jing] had to admit he’d upped his game. This one, released two months after Treasure Inn 财神客栈 (2011), and credited on the directing side to versatile d.p. Jiang Guomin 姜国民 [Venus Keung] (So Close 夕阳天使, 2002; Seven Swords 七剑, 2005; Its Love 白蛇传说, 2011), pretends to be no more than an escapist family movie aimed at the kid market and on those terms it pretty much ticks all the boxes, while always remaining typical of Wang in its populist appeal and gut humour.
There’s Zheng Zhongji 郑中基 [Ronald Cheng] doing his usual idiot act; Zhang Bozhi 张柏芝 [Cecilia Cheung] in her second film after a five-year break, and with her own son Xie Zhenxuan 谢振轩 (by ex-husband Xie Tingfeng 谢霆锋 [Nicholas Tse]) making his screen debut; Zheng Yijian 郑伊健 [Ekin Cheng] popping up as her screen husband; Wang himself as a cowardly manager; a host of children, including Mainland kid star Lin Miaoke 林妙可 (from the Beijing Olympics opening); Hong Kong-born martial artist Wu Yunlong 伍允龙 [Philip Ng] in an Indiana Jones-like cameo; Mainlanders like Shao Bing 邵兵 and Liu Hua 刘桦 scattered throughout the cast; plus action and comedy, capped by a fantasy ending with caves, treasure and man-eating plants. It’s not a classic, but it wears its heart on its sleeve and does its job just fine.
In the unlikely role of a top, Beijing-based commercials director, Zhang looks less relaxed than in All’s Well End’s Well 2011 最強囍事 (2011) but throws herself into the action stuff (especially an early sequence on roller skates) and thankfully manages to puncture a lot of Zheng’s silly-arse cavorting. The most enjoyable performance comes from Mainland character actor Liu, as the smiling, laid-back villain; the most uncomfortable one from Shao, who’s simply not at home in comedy, especially of this kind. Production values, with another good score by Huang Yinghua 黄英华 [Raymond Wong Ying-wah] and acceptable visual effects by South Korea’s Kinomotive Studio, are fine, making the whole package a significant improvement on Wang’s last Mainland excursion, Future X-Cops 未来警察 (2010).
Director-d.p. Jiang appears briefly as a police captain at the end. The film’s original title means “Priceless Treasure”.
Presented by Huanle Jiaoyang (Shanghai) Film (CN), China Film (CN), Emei Film Group (CN), Beijing Lu Zhen Brothers Film & TV Communications (CN), Jing’s Production (HK). Produced by Jing’s Production (HK).
Script: Wang Jing [Wong Jing]. Photography: Jiang Guomin [Venus Keung]. Editing: Li Jiarong. Music: Huang Yinghua [Raymond Wong Ying-wah]. End-titles song: Jin Peida [Peter Kam], Lin Xi [Albert Leung]. Art direction: Chen Zizhong. Costumes: Zhang Fangdi. Sound: Wu Zong. Action: Huang Mingjian, Ma Yucheng. Visual effects: Bak Hyeon-shin (Kinomotive Studio).
Cast: Zhang Bozhi [Cecilia Cheung] (Jiang Huini/Peggy), Zheng Zhongji [Ronald Cheng] (Gao Dalong/Mr. Big), Shao Bing (Xing/Star), Liu Hua (Snake/Cobra), Zheng Yijian [Ekin Cheng] (Lu Zhiming/Andy, Jiang Huini’s husband), Xie Zhenxuan (Lu Xiaojia/Lucas, Jiang Huini’s son), Wu Yunlong [Philip Ng] (Eastern Dragon, hero in commercial), Wang Hucheng (Professor Liu), Wang Jing [Wong Jing] (He Nengwei/Wayne, Gao Dalong’s manager), Lin Miaoke (Gao Sisi/Cissy, Gao Dalong’s daughter), Zhou Qiqi (Beibei), Li Danni (Qiu Zhu, Snake’s female sidekick), Xing Ning (Pao, Snake’s younger brother), Zhuang Simin (Niu Jingjing, actress), Zheng Zu (Sha Hui/Stupid Hui, Snake’s heavy), Peng Gen (Xiaoxiao Xing/Starlet, Xing’s son), Zhang Keyuan (He Ji’an, Nengwei’s son), Fu Tianjiao (Fei, Snake’s heavy), Li Guohua (Zhu), Chen Jinna (Ying, Jiang Huini’s assistant director), Huang Jingyao (Da Kuai), Jiang Guomin [Venus Keung] (Li, police captain), Li Ling (kebab seller), Chen Duan (customer), Wang Yanling (old lady in street).
Release: Hong Kong, 8 Sep 2011; China, 19 Aug 2011.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 1 Dec 2011.)