Like all nostalgic reminisces, fairytales no longer seem to be as good as they use to be. It seems the underlying message of the stories are either too unPC or trite to really appeal to our grown up sensibilities. And yet most of us still maintain a small emotional attachment to them. Add to that, the modern-day fairytale which is the Romantic Comedy and you are more than likely to draw an audience.
So yes, this applies to Elixir of Love. We have an adored princess who is cursed – not by any magical agent of malice, merely the fortunes of nature – such that she is shut away from the world growing up isolated and alone (at least until she comes of an age which Miriam Yeung can pass off convincingly). Failing to find a suitor, the Emperor (or King for those use to Grimm fairytales and their ilk) calls for mystics and healers the world over for the chance to heal his beloved daughter. Along comes Kai (Ritchie Ren), a peasant who is true of heart and discerning of nose but poor of status. He convinces the K… Emporer to allow him to seek a cure for the princess and enlists the help of the Fish brothers, Big Fish, Little Fish and …Fish, and their friend Heung in order to go about it. Of course the fact that Heung has a striking resemblance to the Princess is irrelevant as Kai as never been in the presence of the princess.
Being a Romantic Comedy, Kai and Heung fall in love. Being a fairytale, Kai manages to cure the Princess. Being a CNY film, they both live happily ever after.
Yet it is quite surprising how charming Elixir of Love is. Its toilet humour may be a bit over the top and there are plot holes aplenty but they are not sufficient to draw attention away from the chemistry between the two leads. Miriam Yeung is actually quite subdued as the princess and plays a very supportive role as Heung to Ritchie Ren’s Kai.
Even as the central premise of the film, the princess becomes the personification of Kai’s dreams rather than a real person. Of course Miriam does spend most of her time as the helpful Heung as her alter ego tends to be a pedastalled member of the aristocracy and with the ‘prince’ now more often defined as the ideal of true love rather than the son of the rich guy up on the hill, you can’t help but cheer for Kai’s struggle especially when he is stymied and sabotaged consistently by the existing and powerful medical community. Add to this themes of priorities between ambition and love and the movie more or less writes itself.
Elixir of Love isn’t going to do amazing things – it is just another example of cookie cutter entertainment that is enjoyable enough to watch with that little bit of monkey like mischiefness to get it out of our system before we go back to making money and prosperity for ourselves and our loved ones.