The story appears on

Page B3

December 2, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Events and TV

Comedy genre faces serious issues

THE coming new year will bring a flurry of comedies to local cinemas, including director Feng Xiaogang's latest "If You Are the One 2," a sequel to the 2008 hit, and "Lover's Discourse," produced by Hong Kong director Pang Ho-cheung.

However, critics and fans still think the domestic film industry has a long way to go before it consistently produces funny movies like they do overseas.

But there is definitely a market for comedies. And perhaps the most intriguing on the list for the new year is "Mrs and Mr Incredible," an adaptation of the Hollywood action comedy "Mr and Mrs Smith" by Hong Kong film maker Peter Chan.

The adaptation has generated a fair amount of pre-release hype as Chan will return to the genre where he established his fame in the 1990s with comedies like "Tom, Dick and Hairy" (1993) and "He's a Woman, She's a Man" (1994).

His return to comedy genre may prove the optimistic view toward comedies.

After several years on thought-provoking yet weepy productions like "The Warlords" (2007) and "Bodyguards and Assassins" (2009), "Mrs and Mr Incredible" stars Louis Koo and Sandra Ng, Chan's off-screen partner, as a superhero martial arts couple who are going through a mid-life crisis. The film is scheduled for national release on February 1.

The US$7.5 million film is set in ancient China, with the couple dealing with thorny contemporary issues such as property prices and the "seven-year itch."

Chan says it was the script that made him want to produce the film, written and directed by Vincent Kok.

"Everybody dreams about being a superhero or of having extraordinary supernatural powers," Chan says. "This movie, for the first time in my film-making career, will cater to all tastes. It is more than just good versus evil. It is a journey of love as the couple repair their relationship and save their marriage."

In fact, Hong Kong cinema has a long history of anachronistic comedies, most of which are released during Chinese Lunar New Year, a time when audiences expect light fare at the movies.

In the 1990s, Hong Kong comedies were tremendously popular with the likes of Stephen Chow's mo lei tau (makes-no-sense) comedies and Jackie Chan's action-comedies.

"A lot of recent productions have departed from the original successful mode of Hong Kong comedies - a smart and delicate balance of artistic exaggeration and real lives," Chan says. "Of course those comedies looking for quick returns can't make people laugh from deep in the heart due to weak story lines."

Feng's "If You Are the One 2" promises to be stiff competition as the original set a box-office record by grossing around 350 million yuan (US$52.5 million) last year.

Ever since 1997, Feng's black comedies including "Part A Part B," "Cell Phone," "Big Shot's Funeral," "A Sigh" and "Be There or Be Square" have proved to be both critical and commercial successes. This success has made the director a phenomenal force and a virtual box-office guarantee.

"Feng shows off his signature style in these comedy tales, which are satirical but heartwarming," says Zhang Jian, a big fan of Feng's movies. "None of his works are too complex and they boast grotesquely with a bizarre reflection of reality."

This year Feng's "If You Are the One 2" is slated to release in cinemas on December 22. In the sequel, Xiao Xiao (Shu Qi) and Qin Fen (Ge You) finally get married after their trial marriage turned out to be a failure.

"Lover's Discourse" has also picked up strong word of mouth. The film stars Eason Chan, Eddie Peng and Kay Tse.

It focuses on the relationships of four young couples and is set for release on December 31.

Pang sticks to his trademark black humor in this film that depicts the happiness and sadness people feel when they are looking for love in a modern city. The film also marks the directorial debut of Derek Tsang, son of famous comedy star Eric Tsang.

Despite the success of some comedies, critics and fans still say the genre lags far behind overseas efforts in terms of originality and cinematography.

According to industry insiders, more than 100 films are released in China annually and only about 10 percent are comedies.

Producer-director Chan says many film producers are reluctant to invest much money in comedies as they are often the most difficult movies to do well.

Experts also attribute the lack of good domestic comedies to Chinese culture, which highlights harmony and moderation of ideas and desires.

This may affect the personality of Chinese people who are generally quiet, reserved and don't like to show their affections, says Yan Wei, a veteran movie critic and film distributor.

"A good comedian needs to act more flexibly and never rely on stylized body languages," Yan says. "But the current stereotyped curriculum at theater academies is not that helpful to the future development of a potentially talented comedian."

Yan also says that since comedy is an intellectual, creative art form, the best films should have a kind of "magic" to have crowds bursting into laughter.

Song Ye, a comedy enthusiast, says: "Many domestic works are merely a copy of successful foreign productions. Utilitarianism and the increasing living pressure have made our film makers lose their romantic imagination and passion for life."

Song says she is a little disappointed with two recent Chinese productions - Ah Gan's 3D fantasy parody "Don Quixote" and Joe Ma's romantic comedy "My Sassy Girl 2."

In her eyes, "Don Quixote" focuses too much on the special effects, which can't hide a dumb, illogical plot. "My Sassy Girl 2," a localized remake of a 2001 South Korean hit, has an insipid plot, weak character believability and a poor setting, Song says.

Critic Yan thinks domestic comedies feature too many stereotypical characters.

Local scriptwriter Wang Liping agrees.

She says the most difficult thing is to make people laugh and that a well laid-out plot is the starting point for any good comedy.

The good news is that the comedy genre has room to grow. Producers feel laugh-out-loud films will attract an audience as they offer a relaxing and entertaining evening where people can forget about work and other things for a few hours.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend