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With: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Zhao Wei, Chang Chen, Rebecca Pan, Athena Chu, Roy Cheung
Written by: Jeffrey Lau
Directed by: Jeffrey Lau
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Cantonese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 97
Date: 02/06/2002

Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Friends and Farce

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For the second time the celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai steps in to produce a film for his polar opposite, director Jeffrey Lau. Their first collaboration, the very, very broad The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993) was an overly eager, complex spoof. But Lau must have learned something from Wong's trademark restraint because their second film, the Ming Dynasty period comedy Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002), is a great deal simpler, more romantic and -- surprise -- a good deal funnier. Kino Video releases it on DVD this week, complete with a trailer and stills gallery.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Hard-Boiled, In the Mood for Love, Infernal Affairs, etc.) stars as "Bully the Kid," a rogue who has alienated everyone in his town. His sister Phoenix (Vicki Zhao) runs the family restaurant -- when "Bully" isn't driving customers away -- and pines after a love she has never known. Fortunately, a runaway princess (Faye Wong, a regular in Wong's films) turns up, disguised as a man. Phoenix falls madly in love, as does "Bully," though he doesn't understand why. The Emperor (Chang Chen) has also run away and turns up to fulfill Phoenix's dreams, but not before things between "Bully" and the princess get a little twisted.

This time Lau manages his humor without trying so hard, and the jokes slide through easily; he also masters the high gloss romance, plus one dazzling fight scene. But some very odd touches -- such as the Emperor suddenly sporting an afro and making his men carry briefcases -- can sideswipe the mood.

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