Wong Jing returns with something a little more family friendly than his usual bawdy fare in “Treasure Hunt”, an adventure comedy which he wrote, produced, starred in and co-directed with Keung Kwok Man (“Bullet and Brain”). The film drummed up a fair bit of interest as a result of starring actress Cecilia Cheung, continuing her comeback after an absence of six years despite some well-publicised off screen family woes, and even pulling in her real life young son Lucas Tse for a cameo. Comedian Ronald Cheng shares top billing, with support from Wong Jing, Liu Hua (“The Butcher The Chef and The Swordsman”) and Shao Bing (“The Lost Bladesman”), with Ekin Cheng making a brief cameo appearance.
The skimpy plot sees Cheung as top commercial director Peggy, who leaves behind her displeased husband (Ekin Cheng) and son (Lucas Tse) to shoot a milk powder advert on a supposedly deserted island with buffoonish drunk action star Mr. Big (Ronald Cheng). Unfortunately for them, the island also turns out to be the destination of a gangster called Cobra (Liu Hua), who is on the trail of an ancient Ming Dynasty treasure. Help arrives in the form of the strange Tarzan type tree hut dweller Star (Shao Bing) and his son, who team with the production crew to fend off the thugs and seek out the bounty for themselves.
Although not as raucous and sleazy as might be expected from Wong Jing, “Treasure Hunt” is still every bit as silly in his usual everything but the kitchen sink style, mixing genres with wild abandon and scant care for narrative cohesion or common sense. To an extent, not needing to throw in cleavage shots every few minutes works in Wong’s favour, giving him less scope for bizarre tangents and gratuitous bad taste, and film is fairly focused and straightforward, by his standards at least.
For the most part this sees the emphasis firmly on comedy, the film basically playing out like a series of vaguely connected wacky set pieces. Most of these are reasonably imaginative, if familiar, though by now Wong has churned out so many similar films that it’s pretty hard to tell which of his own outings he is plagiarising from, and the slapstick is in general moderately effective, more so if the viewer is aged below twelve. The overall air of silliness does make for a fair bit of fun, even if it’s tempting to take cynical amusement from Cecilia Cheung making repeated statements with a beaming grin about the importance of family. More unintentional humour is similarly to be had in the film’s brazen product placement, spending a fair amount of its time singing the praises of milk powder, as well as finding odd uses for its empty tins.
All of this benefits from the fact that the cast seem to be having a pretty good time themselves. Cheung is definitely one of Hong Kong’s more charismatic and likeable actresses, and although the film doesn’t exactly stretch her talents it’s nice to see her back on the screen. Ronald Cheng goofs it up 110% in a particularly idiotic role, though doesn’t grate as much as he has in past outings, and the rest of the cast all seem game, especially Liu Hua and his band of face pulling villains, and Wong Jing, who as ever may well just be playing himself. Some decent production values also provide a welcome boost, and the film does look a touch more professional than many of Wong’s other recent efforts, even managing a bit of reasonable computer effects work towards the end, when the adventure element finally kicks in and the cast are semi-threatened by man eating plants.
Although it doesn’t offer anything special, “Treasure Hunt” makes for inoffensive entertainment, and stands as a reasonable piece of commercial film making that should be enjoyed by families or younger viewers, or fans of Wong Jing in general. The presence of Cecilia Cheung does count for quite a bit, and it’s good to see the actress continuing her comeback, though it must be hoped that she’ll soon be featuring in something a little more substantial.
Wong Jing (director) / Wong Jing (screenplay)
CAST: Ronald Cheng