Xi you: Xiang mo pian Film Details
Overview: Tang Sanzang, an aspiring Buddhist hero tries to protect a village from three demons. He develops complex feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who repeatedly helps him, and finally quests to meet the legendary Monkey King.
Review: Can any earnest Stephen Chow fan be blamed for eagerly anticipating his “Journey to the West”? Aside from the fact that it marks his first movie in four years, it promises a return to the inimitable blend of slapstick comedy, kung fu and romance which Chow had so successfully parlayed into a winning formula in the duology “A Chinese Odyssey: Part One – Pandora’s Box” and “A Chinese Odyssey: Part Two – Cinderella” – never mind that Chow does not reprise his role as the “Monkey King” or for that matter have any starring role in this new movie. Fortunately, Chow’s fans can rest easy – despite not having any physical presence in the movie, this “Journey” is classic Chow from the acting to the writing and to the directing, the latter two roles of which he is credited for in addition to producing the movie. And perhaps the best news of it all is that Chow returns to the sheer inspired inanity and hilarity of “Shaolin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle”, so be prepared to be rib-tickled silly by the misadventures of Miss Duan (Shu Qi) and Xuan Zang (Zhang Wen) in demon country. Those familiar with the classic “Journey to the West” novel will know that Xuan Zang is also known as Tripitaka, who would be entrusted by Guanyin with the mission of recovering the sacred texts together with three disciples – Monkey King, Zhu Bajie and Sand Monk. Chow leaves that tale for the inevitable sequel; rather, in this movie, he fashions in essence a prequel, where Xuan Zang is no more than an amateur demon hunter yet to attain enlightenment, Monkey King or Sun Wukong (Huang Bo) is a conniving demon imprisoned in a cave by Buddha, Zhu Bajie is a pig demon called KL Hogg (Chen Bing Qiang) who especially kills women who lust after handsome men, and Sand Monk (Lee Sheung Qing) is a half-fish half-beast water demon who wrecks havoc on fishing communities living near the water. You’ll do well to remember that each demon you see on screen is of significance; otherwise you may be wondering why the screenplay, credited to Chow and seven other writers seems to dwell too excessively on each particular demon-slaying encounter – beginning with Sand Monk, then KL Hogg and finally to Sun Wukong. Indeed, the movie is really made up of these three distinct sequences, with the exception of one more that builds on the budding romance between Xuan Zang and his much more skilled and experienced fellow demon hunter Miss Duan. Within that narrative structure, Chow constructs four elaborately staged battles that combine his brand of quirky humour, choreographer Ku Huen Chiu’s imaginative action and production designer Bruce Yu’s richly conceived sets with some truly impressive CGI that rivals anything you have seen so far in Chinese cinema. Thankfully, Chow doesn’t get caught up with putting on the best visual effects show; in fact, with an inspired and confident directorial hand, he balances all these elements deftly, never forgetting that his audience is expecting nothing less than his signature brand of laughs. Right from the start, you’ll know that Chow’s comedic sensibilities are at his sharpest. He takes his time to set each scene – for instance, in the first sequence, a charlatan is seen tricking the villagers that a giant sting ray he had blasted dead in the water was responsible for one of their own’s death, so much so that when the real culprit (i.e. the water demon) appears, that entrance is even more dramatic. Ditto for the appearance of KL Hogg and Sun Wukong, whose appearances in full glory are again preceded by red herrings that make the ‘coming-out’ more impactful. Chow again demonstrates an exceptional ability to juggle comedy and tragedy – here, in engineering humour amidst the deaths of others by the respective demons – and it is to his credit again that placing these two elements side by side in every sequence does not make the movie any tonally jarring at any point. And of course, as with all his films, this one features his unique brand of exaggerated slapstick – like the obscenely over-sized woman who comes to save the day (think “Kung Fu Hustle” and “CJ7”) or the occasional gross joke that involves some inappropriate kissing – and his cheeky tendencies of confounding genre stereotypes. In place of his mug, Chow has found his proxy in the form of Mainland actor Zhang Wen. It is said that Chow shows his actors just how he expects them to act in every scene, and in the case of Zhang Wen, we are sure Chow must have showed Zhang the way he would have played the role himself. You can almost see Chow through Zhang’s rubber-faced mannerisms – and the same goes for Huang Bo, who plays the mischievous Sun Wukong with more than a hint of Stephen Chow. Chow also fashions the love story between Zhang and Shu Qi the way he and co-star Athena Chu used to in the ‘A Chinese Odyssey’ films, and there are certain recognizable shades of similarities in the relationship between Xuan Zhang/ Miss Duan and Monkey King/ Zixia in the latter. Nonetheless, Shu Qi isn’t simply a stand-in for Athena Chu – fearsome when fighting demons like an oriental Tomb Raider and yet amorous when it comes to romancing Xuan Zhang, she is thoroughly alluring from start to end in the very sexy and sassy manner we would expect from her. So really, there’s little to worry even though you won’t see Stephen Chow in the movie – every bit of it is quintessentially Chow. Like his ‘A Chinese Odyssey’ movies, this “Journey” has action, comedy, romance and the additional ingredient of CGI to ensure an alternately amusing and suspenseful and thrilling ride from start to finish.
Country: China, Hong Kong
Duration: 110 min
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Also known as: Xi You: Xiang Mo Pian,Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons,西遊記 はじまりのはじまり,Putovanje na zapad,Пътешествие на запад,Путешествие на Запад,Journey to the West,Tây Du Kí: Moi Tinh Ngoai Truyen,西遊·降魔篇,西游·降魔篇,Journey to the west: Conquering the demons,Xi you xiang mo pian,Odyssey,Xi you: Xiang mo pian,Daai wa sai you: Chui mo chun kei,Kelione i vakarus