Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kung Fu Arts

Plot: Lord King (Carter Wong ) is wrongly accused by Lord Pai Yu Yu (Chan Sing) of an attempt on the King's life (that's *the* King, not *Lord* King.). His guilt is determined solely by the fact that he has been thrown through a window and stammers when asked if he's there to kill the king. He flees, but returns in an atrocious doctor disguise (change of clothes, goatee) when his beloved Princess (Chin Chi Min) falls ill. The King (actually, to avoid confusion, I'm going to call him Emperor from here) promises his hand in marriage to the quack who cures his daughter. Having been runbled by the guards, and unable to administer his new-found doctor skills, King takes the next most obvious route: have your trained chimp do the work for you. For all those who grew up with the PG Chimps, there's a touch of nostalgia as our chimp provides an excellent bedside manner and a potent elixir. Of course, this gives the Emperor a dilemma - should his daughter marry a monkey? With the wisdom of Solomon, he says she should and at the same time be set adrift in a boat. At least he pays for a decent wedding though.

Meanwhile Lord Pai - in a superb 'big cat' combo of Tiger head shirt and leopardskin cape - murders and usurps the Emperor, egged on by the Princess' Aunt and witnessed by courtier Shau Chen. Surprisingly everyone is gutted and surprised that the Princess has been lost at sea. Lord King is chased by guards but makes his escape.

But, wait - the Princess and Chimp husband have landed on a sparse, barren island containing nothing but rainforest. There is a terrifying moment when it's revealed that she is pregnant, and that the Chimp may have played a part in this! Flash forward ten years and it would appear that at least two shops have opened on the island: a dry cleaners (for her dress is immaculate) and a tailors (for junior has arrived and sports an off-the-shoulder Tarzan vest). And Lord King has not been idle - he's built himself an immortal dummy and one of those racks that you can kick large vases off. I think Ikea call them the 'Koekvas'.

Lord King sneaks back to the palace where Shau Chen reveals a scroll that the Emperor wrote with his dying blood revealing his murderer. He seeks the Princess' island, only to arrive and find that his Chimp is being attacked by a snake!! Who is, quite literally, a snake in a monkey's shadow, in the shadow of Carter Wong (irony upon irony). Unfortunately the Chimp has not clearly not seen Snake in the Monkey's Shadow, and is immediately killed by the rascal serpent. Let that be a lesson for all: watch your classics!

After a suitable period of mourning (approximately 2 or 3 frames) King turns his mind to the Princess. She is not in forgiving mood, but King tries to get back in her affections using the oldest excuse in the book: that he had attempted to save her by disguising himself as a doctor, been recognised, and sent his chimp instead. "I didn't realise he was going to marry you". Oh well - live and learn, eh?

Breathe a sigh of relief as it's revealed that the immutable laws of nature have not been broken, and Lord King is the dad.
Junior chucks some simian shapes, but dad is not impressed and vows to tackle the Emperor alone.

Back at the palace, Pai Yu has traded his big cat threads for imperial robes. The new found power is clearly weighing him down: "I've got lots of girls for you, your majesty" offers a lackey: "[sighs] I know...". Lord King rushes to face him off, but Pai Yu has sent his guards to recover the unwilling princess back to the palace. They are unconvinced by her rubbish excuse: "That's impossible - I'm busy". King is tortured with Shau Chen, and following some illogical double-double-double crossing, we get down to the only good rumble in the film: Chan Sing vs Carter Wong!!!

Meanwhile again, junior has been training an unholy unarmy of primates and rushes to recover his mum at the palace. Obviously the local 'ape actors' studio was closed as all the ape vs guards fight scenes are done with sound effects and dodgy Cockney reactions: "ees bit orf me weddin' tackle".

Lord Pau is defeated (although, oddly, not killed in the fight) and Lord King becomes, erm, King King. The apes get drunk.

Comedy: Most Kung Fu comedy tends to be overplayed slapstick, or unintentional hilarity due to dodgy subs/dubs. But here the ludicrous plot is played completely straight, which makes it surreal and strangely watchable. By the end, though, we get down to the usual (literally) toilet humour. Some priceless dialogue:
(1) "Why is Uncle Monkey different to us, Mother?". The clue's in the question, kid...
(2) The fastest threat I've ever heard: "ThereisnoneedforamantobeimpolitetoadefencelesswomanI'llgetyou!"

Fights: Few and far between - this is a fairytale with fights tacked on. First encounter with the guards is a basic punch and block, and then there's really nothing of note until the showdown. Now, this is good: outrageous equine shapes from Carter (complete with spliced-in mustang footage) against savage tiger claw from Chan; when they break apart Carter canters like a horse to show he means business. Really agressive thrusts, strikes, boot and even headbutts! Junior leaps in with some weak but apparently effective monkey slaps, and unfortunately it's all over far too soon.

Overall: 2/5 Poor pacing with not nearly enough fighting, but there's some daft fun to be had. Last fight is terrific but too short. One of the few films where you'll hear a monkey called a bastard.

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