China, 2010, colour, 1.85:1, 90 mins.
Director: Niu Chaoyang 牛朝阳.
Sketch-style CNY comedy, with a Greater China cast, is up and down.
Northern China, the present day. Jobless and penniless after being sacked by his boss (Sun Shuji), and deserted by his wife (Jiang Hongbo) and young son (Zheng Tianyi), 42-year-old cook Erbao (Sun Xing) attempts suicide but is saved by a fairy (Xie Na), whose sole purpose is to make him happy. She grants him wishes, with the proviso that if he doesn’t find happiness he should utter the magic phrase “I’m having a great time!” and he will be returned to the present for another wish. Erbao chooses to be a martial arts hero (Mo Shaocong), a millionaire (Xue Cun), a film star (Li Xiuxian) and a beautiful young woman (Zhong Xintong) but finds all of their lives have drawbacks. Finally, he asks to become an emperor (Jiao Enjun) in Ancient China.
A Mainland attempt to make an upbeat, Hong Kong-style CNY comedy, this first feature by songwriter-TV director Niu Chaoyang 牛朝阳 did respectable business in the run-up to the end-of-year blockbusters but is a bumpy ride in its sketch format, with some sections working and others not. Simply structured as a series of wish-fulfilment mini-stories of about 15 minutes each – with popular TV host-comedienne Xie Na 谢娜 (Rose War of Nana 娜娜的玫瑰战争, 2010) and Sun Xing 孙兴 (a Mainland-born actor whose TV career developed in Taiwan) whimsically filling in the interludes – it brings together a collection of old and young names (Hong Kong’s Li Xiuxian 李修贤 [Danny Lee], Mo Shaocong 莫少聪 [Max Mok] and Zhong Xintong 钟欣潼 [Gillian Chung], onetime Taiwanese action star Yang Lijing 杨丽菁 [Cynthia Khan], plus veteran Mainlander Siqin Gaowa 斯琴高娃) alongside a host of character actors only known within China. Veteran Li has some fun spoofing his tough-guy gangster image but Zhong is thrown away as a pretty office babe, and Niu’s script is generally more smileworthy than laugh-packed.
Super Player 大玩家 develops some real quality in the longest, final story, featuring a bored young emperor who falls for a concubine but meets the opposition of Siqin Gaowa’s stern empress dowager. Jiao gets a chance to develop a proper comic performance and is well paired with China’s Huo Siyan 霍思燕 (Distant Thunder 迷城, 2010) as his graceful love interest. Technical credits, including visual effects, are solid.
Presented by Beijing Oriental Vision Film (CN), Beijing Jinhong Culture Communication (CN), Air Media Film & TV Culture (CN).
Script: Niu Chaoyang. Photography: Li Shijie. Editing: Xu Shanjie, Pan Dongdong. Music: Chen Tong. Action: Sun Xiaomao. Visual effects: Zhang Junfeng.
Cast: Sun Xing (Erbao, cook), Xie Na (fairy), Jiao Enjun (emperor), Zhong Xintong [Gillian Chung] (office beauty), Huo Siyan (Yun’er, concubine), Siqin Gaowa (empress dowager), Li Xiuxian [Danny Lee] (film star), Mo Shaocong [Max Mok] (martial arts hero), Yang Lijing [Cynthia Khan] (his wife), Xue Cun (millionaire), Jiang Hongbo (Erbao’s wife), Liang Tian (millionaire’s cousin), Fu Yiwei (Miss Duan, antiquities specialist), Na Wei (film director), Zhao Yan Guozhang (Luo, company head), Fang Qingzhuo (Xiaofang, Luo’s wife), Cao Cao [Jonathan Kos-Read] (Hollywood film star), Luo Zhongxu (new owner of millionaire’s house), Sun Shuji (restaurant boss), Zhou Yaping (Huang), Hong Zongyi (court eunuch), Gu Feng (office employee), Shao Jie (hostess), Zhou Enya (female employee), Zheng Tianyi (Erbao’s son), Jiang Yang Ze Ren (film star’s manager), Huang Hui (film star’s assistant), Kang Hua (reporter).
Release: China, 25 Nov 2010.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 7 Feb 2011.)