It’s a silly [and superstitious] habit but I like going to the movies when Chinese New Year starts. I think it’s good practice and lucky to start off the New Year with lots of laughter. And what better way to put a big grin on the face that than to see a brand new Lunar comedy?
Over the past decade or so, the trend of putting out Lunar comedies has fallen on Jackie Chan and of course, the laff-meister Stephen Chow. Fast forward to 2002 and Chan and Chow have better things to do, the heir of the Lunar Year comedy has been taken by Johnnie To [his last CNY effort being the wicked Wu Yen].
This year, with the help of co-director Wai Ka fai, he’s come up with Fat Choi Spirit — a comedy about HK’s favourite national past-time — mahjong. Andy Lau, Gigi Leung, Louis Koo, Cherie Ying and Lau Ching Wan are in this zesty tile-slapping fest, which throws just about everything mahjong but the tiles at the audience. From unspoken mahjong etiquette to using it as a memory aid for Alzheimer’s, Fat Choi Spirit manages to breeze through everything faster than you can say “Poong!”
At times, this is its downfall too, the character development is a little half-assed which is a shame as the potential is definitely there. Andy Lau gets the meatiest character as the mahjong guru, Gigi does a great job as the very wacky girlfriend and Lau Ching Wan shows us what a good actor he is by upsizing his very scanty role to gain substantial laughs.
If anything, Fat Choi Spirit is pretty comprehensive, covering all the amusing little aspects of mahjong. But does it score well on the laugh-o-meter? You will laugh consistently, perhaps even chuckle loudly at certain points of the film [mine was seeing Lau Ching Wan dressed as a wannabe rappa/homeboy and Gigi’s lack of self control as a bad loser]. Your belly won’t ache and your jaw won’t hurt but you will walk out of the cinema with a big smile.
Not a bad way to kick off the New Year, I say.