“Vulgaria,” a new comedy co-written, produced and directed by Pang Ho-Cheung and starring Chapman To as a B-movie producer, opens with a lot of promise. Immediately, a voice over disclaimer warns viewers to be prepared for a raunchy, politically incorrect “vulgar comedy” that is rated “one level higher than Parental Guidance: Parental Censure.” That’s a good start, right? As expected, all the elements for a really funny movie are here: group sex, oral sex, oral sex with popping candy and even good ol’ bestiality thrown in for good measure. The gauntlet was thrown, the problem is, no one was prepared to back it up.
The plot for “Vulgaria” feels oddly familiar – a take on “Bullets Over Broadway” – Chapman To, with his glasses and mousey demeanor, makes for a decent Woody Allen, playing a producer who turns to a Triad boss to finance his next movie. Quickly, compromises are made and mayhem ensues on and off the set as his movie is turned into a soft porn shoot. There are budget over-runs from his ambitious director, finding brands for product placement (Playboy), he has to use his new girlfriend (Dada Chan) as a body double for an aging former starlet. On top of that, he has to find a part for the Boss’ girlfriend in the movie, but she’s a mule – literally. The problems continue to pile up in his personal life – he’s late on alimony payments to his barrister ex-wife (played by Kristal Tin – who makes more money than he does), losing visitation rights with a young daughter, a new, but promiscuous love interest played by Dada Chan (who knew breasts you never get to see can look so good) and thrown in for good measure, an assistant who sues him for sexual harassment.
Pang Ho-Cheung shot this film in 12 days with some of the scenes and dialogue written as they were driving to the set. Unfortunately, the aftermath of this are scenes that run long or suddenly cut short. The jokes suffer greatly from this as well. Chapman To’s character compares movie producers to the hair downstairs. On paper that should be funny. But the execution was an overly long dissertation about the benefits of alleviating friction between two bodies. When you have to outright explain a joke, that’s just not going to work. While the actors gave it their all, improvisation was not their thing.
The expectation going in was an MPAA constraint-free amp’ed up “American Pie” or Farley Brothers raunch-fest, but the movie delivers nothing. It’s all talk and no show. There are no boobs, no sex, no laughs. An expletive here and there doesn’t really count as vulgar does it? And after the huge plot build-up, To’s character gets knocked unconscious, wakes up 3 months later and everything is done. At least I can say, “I didn’t see that one coming.” Granted, watching a foreign comedy when you are relying completely on the sub-titles is always an iffy situation, especially when it’s not really a physical comedy. You have to wonder if something got lost in translation or was it really just not that funny? In the case of “Vulgaria”, this review might produce more laughs.
Ho-Cheung Pang (director) / Chiu-Wing Lam, Ho-Cheung Pang, Luk Yee-sum (screenplay)
CAST: Chapman To … To, Wai Cheung
Ronald Cheng … Brother Tyrannosaurus
Dada Chan … Popping Candy