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“The Jade and the Pearl” is the third release from the new Shaw Brother and TVB television network team, and sees them this time tackling the enduringly popular period set romantic comedy genre. Directed by Janet Chun (“La Lingerie”, and the recent “La Comedie Humaine”), the film is unsurprisingly a who’s who of young talent from TVB and the co-producing Emperor Entertainment, headlined by stars Raymond Lam, Charlene Choi, Wong Cho Lam, and Joey Yung.
The film gets down to instantly recognisable business as the spoiled Princess Yan (Charlene Choi) accidentally meets the unknowing General Cheng (Raymond Lam) at a speed dating style matchmaking event. Inevitably, when the princess is chosen to marry the prince of the distant nation of Far Far Away, the general is given the task of escorting her through the wilds. Even more inevitably, after a touch of spirited banter, the two fall in love, only to be separated when attacked by a ragtag bunch of bandits led by the not very fierce San Niang (Joey Yung). The poor princess develops amnesia and shacks up with lowly storyteller Ling Gankai (Wong Cho Lam), while the general is imprisoned by the bandits and finds himself the object of San Niang’s affections.
Doubtless any viewers even vaguely familiar with the form will know exactly where the film is going from the very start, though to its credit, whilst inherently predictable, “The Jade and the Pearl” is a cheerful and unpretentious affair. Similarly, though the plot itself is negligible at best, it does generally hit the right notes, managing to at least generate a touch of dramatic interest as to who will end up with who. Even for those who don’t particularly care much on this score, the film is still an enjoyably light ride, refusing to take itself too seriously and throwing in plenty of gags, with the usual mix of winks at the camera, silliness and modern pop culture references. This results in a lot of the old favourites being dredged up, such as cross dressing, wacky misunderstandings and other assorted gags, most of which are at least mildly amusing. Chun’s direction is pedestrian, and the film does suffer in places from sudden lurches in pace, though this never detracts too much from its overall sense of fun.
Obviously, the cast of famous faces are the main attraction here, and fans of the stars will certainly have a field day, with at least one of the 4 leads being on screen at all times, usually in close up. Whilst none of them play roles that are even remotely challenging or different to their usual screen personas, they all appear to have had a fine old time clowning around, which makes the film far more palatable than it might otherwise have been. Charlene Choi gets most of the screen time, predictably playing it alternately cute and shrill in likeable enough fashion, with Raymond Lam exuding manly cluelessness as he trails around after her. Although Wong Cho Lam, and Joey Yung to an extent play second fiddle as the other potential love interests, they do manage to score a few silly scenes.
Although none of this is really enough to make “The Jade and the Pearl” particularly memorable, it’s enjoyable enough and passes the time painlessly thanks to a few funny moments and a general air of lively tomfoolery. Fans of the 4 leads certainly won’t be disappointed, and the film does work well as a star vehicle, giving them lots of chances to look good as they breeze through the inconsequential material.
Janet Chun (director) / Hing-Ka Chan (screenplay)
CAST: Raymond Lam … Ching Hin
Charlene Choi … Princess Yin
Joey Yung … Chuk Sam-leung
Cho-lam Wong … Ling Kam-hoi
Macy Chan … Princess Wah
Shuang Chen … Chui-luk
Steven Cheung … Thief Fan