Thursday, January 13, 2005

Admittedly, I'm one of the bigger fans of Stephen Chow ever since I first watched Shaolin Soccer some years ago. Then I got to watch God of Cookery and Flirting Scholar on CTTV, both of which proved to be certified laugh-a-minute projects. I was hooked and looked forward to watching all his movies because he's a certified comic genius! One can never go wrong with Mr. Chow's movies if you want to laugh and be entertained, it's a 100% guarantee! So why am I not laughing as much with his latest opus, Kung Fu Hustle? I'll give you a number of reasons why:

1. The movie didn't focus on his character - What made his previous movies really good was the fact that there was one central character that every story focuses on: him. All the others were there for support and their stories were secondary to his. Stephen Chow is funny. But you take the spotlight away from him and it's not as much fun as it should be.

2. SFX dominated the movie - There was too many of it in this film compared to his previous works. And back then the special effects were used sparingly and only to support either visual humor and/or action scenes. Was it deliberately done to cover a weak story? Probably.

3. Too many characters - Smorgasbord characters prevented the telling of individual background stories resulting in shallow characters. Aside from a brief flashback of Mr. Chow's character and his leading lady, we don't know much of the others. Who's his sidekick? Where did they meet? Where did the three kung fu masters come from? What about the landlords? When did they first meet "The Beast"? Who is The Beast? How did he start off? What of the ugly girl? If she's insignificant, why give her more screen time than the beautiful mute girl? How did the Axe Gang start off? You get the picture.

4. Too much action, not much talk - Like the domination of SFX, the movie focused too much on the kung fu action. Don't get me wrong here, I totally love the action scenes, but did he have to overdo it to the point of forgetting character development and, yes, humor? The last two Matrix films come to mind here.

5. Use of too much violence and brown jokes - Granted that Mr. Chow occasionally used jokes that were mildly crude in his previous films and some blood were included in some of them to highlight one or two (ludicrous) action scenes, the use of it here just wasn't funny. I know his scenes with the knife throwing and snakes were really funny, but the others were not. The punchline in the action scenes were severly lacking (although some people in the audience laughed just the same). What about the sight of butt shots and defecation? Funny? Maybe once for the former, but after numerous instances of it, I don't think so. The lone defecting scene is totally not funny at all.

And did he have to resort to too many references to other movies? This was the problem of Hot Shots: Part Deux, too many clichés. Mr. Chow's known for sensible storytelling and great humor he didn't have to resort to such desperate measures to entertain people. I wanted to like this film for the Mr. Chow's sake, I really did but it just doesn't work at all. This film is also definitely darker than his previous ones and he was probably experimenting a new formula aimed at the fans of black comedy. People I know rave and proclaim this to be his best output yet but I terribly doubt it. They say they had a blast, enjoying the comic scenes but I observed it only had four hilarious scenes at the most unlike his previous work. They say he's a genius for seamlessly employing SFX and kung fu action scenes together, this we'll have to watch out for. He cannot and should not sacrifice eye candy for a good storyline, substantial characters, and witty scripts. I'm still a big fan of Mr. Chow but I won't be putting this is in my list of favorite movies that he made.

* Production history and lots more pictures can be found here.

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