All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010
Hong Kong/China, 2010, colour, 1.85:1, 91 mins.
Directors: Huang Baiming 黄百鸣 [Raymond Wong], Qiu Litao 邱礼涛 [Herman Yau].
Much better than the 2009 entry but still lacking big-star lustre.
Ancient China. The empress dowager (Li Xiangqin) is going potty as her son, the emperor Cang Hai (Gu Tianle), refuses to sleep with his over-sexed wife (Tian Ruini) and produce a grandson. So, to maintain the bloodline, the call goes out to find the emperor’s younger sister, the princess Wei Zhu (Yang Ying), who’s been away for years studying. On her travels, the princess has fallen for Mai Bingrong (Zheng Zhongji), a general, but on her way back is attacked by brigands and washes up in a southern town with amnesia. Bankrupt businessman Huang Baiwan (Huang Baiming), whose daughter Huang Ying (Xiong Dailin) has gone missing, convinces Wei Zhu she’s his daughter so he can marry her off to the scholar son, Wu Shangjin (Pan Yueming), of rich bigwig Wu Fada (Lin Xue). However, Wu Fada’s suspicious sister, Wu Wenrou (Wu Junru), is against it. Meanwhile, the real Huang Ying ends up at the imperial palace, where she’s happy to be mistaken for the princess, and when Wu Shangjin meets the fake Huang Ying he realises she’s not whom she claims to be as he’s earlier fallen in love with the real one. A labyrinthine tale of mixed-up relationships ensues.
After All’s Well End’s Well 2009 家有囍事2009 (2009), this second revival of the Lunar New Year comedy series of the 1990s is also shot in China but with a much better integrated Mainland contingent – Pan Yueming 潘粤明, Yang Ying 杨颖 [Angelababy], Xiong Dailin 熊黛林 – alongside the Hong Kong comedians – Gu Tianle 古天乐 [Louis Koo], Wu Junru 吴君如 [Sandra Ng], Zheng Zhongji 郑中基 [Ronald Cheng], Huang Baiming 黄百鸣 [Raymond Wong] – the last four all back from the previous film. Reviving a very Hong Kong/Cantonese tradition and trying to make it appeal to Mainland/Mandarin audiences as well was always a huge gamble by actor/producer/director Huang, but the crossover potential of All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010 花田囍事2010 is significantly increased (and paid off at the box office) by making it a costume comedy, where the different acting styles are less apparent than in a modern setting. And with Huang’s own son, Huang Zihuan 黄子桓 [Edmond Wong] (Ip Man 叶问, 2008), now in charge of the script, the complexly-plotted movie actually has a much better dramatic structure than the 2009 one.
Again, many of the biggest laughs come from Wu, as a local bigshot’s unmarried sister with a temper to match her 40-something years. Wu, unbelievably, was in the first of the original series, back in 1992, and is still one of Hong Kong’s most lively, characterful comediennes, recalling a bygone era of Hong Kong comedy stars – not least when she slides into a costume rap number with fellow veteran Huang. Current mugging king Zheng is relatively low-key here, and actually out-acted by Gu, who has a fine time being daft as the empress dowager’s petulant, martial arts-obsessed son with a silly crown. Of the Mainlanders, Pan holds his own against the Canto-gang and big-eyed Xiong is more than simply photogenic; but it’s co-model Yang (Hot Summer Days 全城热恋 热辣辣, 2010) who makes the biggest impression, suprisingly relaxed and game for a laugh as the stuttering, amnesiac princess who ends up in drag.
Though it’s overall very talky, the production does break out of sitcom situations with some reasonably staged action sequences and even (in one of several deliberate anachronisms) a catwalk fashion show that gives Xiong her time in the sun. Smooth editing by Zhong Weizhao 钟炜钊 [Azrael Chung] helps the time slide by and Hengdian World Studio’s huge sets and the Hangzhou locations give the movie a sense of some size, especially in the second half. But what’s still missing from the film is the sense of real star power that Zhou Xingchi 周星驰 [Stephen Chow] and others brought to the original series.
Presented by Pegasus Motion Pictures (HK), Beijing Enlight Pictures (CN), Shenzhen Film Studio (CN). Produced by Pegasus Motion Pictures (HK), Pegasus Film & TV Culture (CN), Enlight Pictures (CN).
Script: Huang Zihuan [Edmond Wong]. Photography: Chen Guanghong [Joe Chan]. Editing: Zhong Weizhao [Azrael Chung]. Music: Mai Zhenhong [Brother Hung]. Production design: Yu Jia’an [Bruce Yu]. Art direction: Chen Jinhe [Raymond Chan]. Costume design: Guo Shumin [Petra Kwok]. Sound: Wang Qingsheng. Action: Yi Youxiong, Zhang Yaoxing.
Cast: Gu Tianle [Louis Koo] (Cang Hai, emperor), Wu Junru [Sandra Ng] (Wu Wenrou/Miss Sweetie), Zheng Zhongji [Ronald Cheng] (Mai Bingrong, general), Pan Yueming (Wu Shangjin), Xiong Dailin (Huang Ying/Nightingale, Huang Baiwan’s daughter), Yang Ying [Angelababy] (Wei Zhu/Pearl, princess), Huang Baiming [Raymond Wong] (Huang Baiwan/Million), Li Xiangqin (empress dowager), Xia Chunqiu (Xiaochunzi, eunuch), Lin Zicong (Lun Jin), Lin Xue [Lam Suet] (Wu Fada), Tian Ruini (emperor’s wife), Zhu Mimi (Su Mali), Liu Haolong [Wilfred Lau] (Chi Long/harbour man), Wang Li’na (Fei Yan/Flying Swallow).
Release: Hong Kong, 11 Feb 2010; China, 10 Feb 2010.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 17 May 2010.)