King of Comedy (1999)

Rating: C+

Dir: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi + Lee Lik-Chi
Star: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Cecilia Cheung, Karen Mok, Ng Man-Tat

While Stephen Chow films often feel over-stuffed with ideas, this one feels like ten stitched together. If his character’s attempts to become an actor in a John Woo-esque action film starring Cuckoo (Mok), his romance with club hostess (Cheung) whom he is teaching to act, and his efforts to show triads the best way to collect protection money aren’t enough, in the last reel he becomes an undercover cop too. Of this pile of plots, the first is the best, a fabulous parody of HK movies, and cinema in general – his audition scene beats anything served up in American Pie, and you genuinely feel for his beaten-up, shot, starved and generally put-upon character, who is prepared to go through fire, literally, to get on film (check out the surprise guest cameo too!).

The last-named works surprisingly well too, leading up to a tense scene that will have you holding your breath. It’s the romance that drags things down, and it’s unfortunate that this takes up most of the running-time. Cheung is way out of her depth beside Chow, possessing only the most limited range of expressions and emotion. His talents, on the other hand, are clearly not limited to dumb humour. It is, however, the dumb humour that you’ll most likely remember; who would have thought that prodding the genitals of a naked child with a stick could be part of a comedic highlight? Only in a Stephen Chow film…