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In its own way, “Hello Babies” is something of a landmark, with traditional Lunar New Year box office rivals Eric Tsang and Raymond Wong joining forces for a combined assault on audiences instead of offering up more instalments in the “All’s Well Ends Well” and “I Love Hong Kong” series. Prolific director and actor Vincent Kok (“Hotel Deluxe”) writes and directs, pulling together the usual cast of familiar faces who tend to appear in this kind of extremely popular seasonal film, including the likes of Ronald Cheng, Fiona Sit, Alex Lam, Sandra Ng and others, with plenty of famous gag cameos being thrown in along the way.
Though essentially an hour and a half of good-natured nonsense, for what it’s worth, the plot revolves around Raymond Wong and Eric Tsang as long standing rivals Lui Ming and Yeung Ah Wei, competing in a race to see who can push their younger family members to give them a male heir first. This doesn’t sit too well with Lui Ming’s nephew Scallop (Ronald Cheng) or his wife Suet (Fiona Sit), who would prefer to simply kick back and spend his money, their marriage long having been stuck in a rut. To try and turn things around, Lui Ming brings in midwife extraordinaire Kung Sham (Sandra Ng), hoping to push the pair to conceive before his Alzheimer’s Disease gets worse. Meanwhile, Yeung has problems of his own, with his son Alex (Alex Lam) and wife Shan Shan (Karena Chin) only seeming to be able to produce girls.
Any viewers familiar with Hong Kong Lunar New Year comedies should already have a pretty good idea what to expect with “Hello Babies”, and it’s very much a film which plays things wholly by the numbers and which sticks to giving the audience what they came to see. This translates to a brisk and breezy hour and a half of random jokes and gibberish, with low brow humour being the order of the day, Vincent Kok leaving no stone unturned in his hunt for cheap laughs and wackiness.
For this kind of film, it’s actually pretty funny, and has a good few moments of genuine amusement and crude creativity sprinkled throughout, with a smuttier edge than usual (likely to be especially appreciated by Cantonese speaking viewers) and some funny slapstick set pieces. The pop culture references come thick and fast (including the apparently still obligatory “Ip Man” nod), and while these vary in their effectiveness or sense, this does give the film a pleasingly local and old school Hong Kong type feel (as does the amusingly constant product placement).
It helps that the cast all seem to be having fun themselves, and as an ensemble piece it’s got plenty of the necessary comic chemistry between the main players, all of whom are on likeable form despite having roles that basically see them playing exaggerated versions of their own public personas. Veteran headliners Raymond Wong and Eric Tsang are fine (the film’s odd depiction of Alzheimer’s Disease aside), though it’s the amusingly over the top Ronald Cheng and Fiona Sit who get most of the screen time and laughs, making for an entertaining central couple and spending the entire running time bickering and behaving daftly. While the rest of the cast (Alex Lam and Karena Chin) are there mainly as scenery, frequently verging on the enjoyably wooden, the cameos make for some playful moments, Louis Koo’s appearance in particular.
As a Lunar New Year comedy, “Hello Babies” is definitely above average, and though there’s nothing very different here, it delivers exactly according to plan and should go down well with its intended audience. These films prove popular year in and year out, and so it’s hard to really criticise Vincent Kok for offering up more of the same, and as an unpretentious piece of silliness there’s certainly a lot worse out there.
Vincent Kok (director) / Chan Mou Yin Anselm, Wai Kei Cheng (screenplay)
CAST: Bak-Ming Wong
Sandra Ng Kwan Yue