The “Alls Well Ends Well” franchise returns to screens yet again for its 2010 outing, following on the heels of its highly successful predecessor, which was perhaps surprisingly the highest grossing Hong Kong film of 2009. The film is of that most Chinese of genres, the Lunar New Year comedy, often baffling for non-local viewers, and is a period set costume piece, this time co-directed by series creator Raymond Wong and the illustrious, not to mention insanely busy Herman Yau. Most of the cast of the 2009 film return, including headliners Louis Koo, Sandra Ng, and Ronald Cheng, this time joined by the likes of Lee Heung Kam, Pan Yueming, and the two models Angelababy (“Short of Love”) and Lynn Xiong (“Ip Man”).
The plot is the usual mishmash of mistaken identities and misunderstandings, but basically revolves around Princess Pearl (Angelababy) returning home after studying abroad for some years and having fallen in love with the brave General Bing (Ronald Cheng). Unfortunately, they are waylaid by bandits on the journey, and she falls into the river, losing her memory and being rescued by the hard up merchant Million (Raymond Wong) – who instead of trying to work out who she is, decides to pass her off as his daughter in order to marry her off to the nephew of rich maid Yau (Sandra Ng). Further complications ensue when Million’s own missing daughter Nightingale (Lynn Xiong) shows up and is mistaken for Princess Pearl, being whisked off to the palace where Emperor Ocean (Louis Koo) comes to the conclusion that it’s high time she had a husband.
“Alls Well Ends Well” is a film which works far better than it should, partly because for most viewers expectations will have been low at best. As a piece of film making, as is often the case with Lunar New Year comedies, it really is utter chaos, a complete mix of styles, surreal and tangential subplots and modern pop culture references. Deserving some kind of award for somehow managing to juggle 5 or 6 mistaken identity and memory loss plots at once, the film is an incredibly messy farce, though one which nevertheless engages, thanks in no small part to the fine efforts of the game cast, all of whom seem to be having a fine old time, Louis Koo and Sandra Ng in particular. Certainly, pretty much everyone gives 100%, and this enthusiasm makes the film a lot of fun, and it rises above the level of material almost by sheer force of wacky will.
The film is a non-stop barrage of gags and slapstick, most of which is accompanied by weird, cartoonish noises, though again perhaps surprisingly, most of the jokes work are genuinely funny. The film is packed full of bizarre moments, with characters frequently bursting into song or catwalk fashion scenes for no justifiable reason other than a few cheap laughs. Although this does make it rather bewildering at times, it is winningly unpredictable and creative, leaving the viewer amused throughout by its endlessly cheerful brand of nonsense. Obviously, there is a lot of local humour and Chinese pop culture references, though this needn’t put off the uninitiated, as its doubtful whether some of the in jokes make sense even for those in the know. Special mention must go to the hilarious “Ip Man” spoof sequence, and some crazy rapping which whilst not quite up to the standard of Wu Ma’s famous “Chinese Ghost Story” scene, is very funny in an irreverent, dignity free kind of way.
Directed with impressive hyper active energy, if not much focus, “Alls Well Ends Well 2010” makes for 90 minutes or so of crazy, unfettered Hong Kong nonsense that should be enjoyed by all fans of the form or indeed any viewers willing to switch off their brains and go with the flow. Certainly an improvement on the majority of other recent Lunar New Year comedies, it entertains and confuses in roughly equal measures, though is arguably all the better for its determined lack of sense.
Bak-Ming Wong, Herman Yau (director) / Edmond Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Louis Koo … Chong Hoi – The Emperor
Lynn Hung … Wong Ying – Million’s daughter
Sandra Ng Kwan Yue … Ng Wan Yau
Angela Baby … Princess Wai Chu
Suet Lam … Ng Fat Tat
Ronald Cheng … Mak Bing Wing – The General
Bak-Ming Wong … Million Wong Bak Man
Kristal Tin … The Empress