Alrighty, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not a big fan of Cecilia Cheung and quite frankly, I haven’t met anyone who is. Mind you I gave her plenty of opportunities to prove herself after her fine turn in Stephen Chow’s King of Comedy. Then she did Fly Me to Polaris.
OK, I thought, not entirely her fault as the material was about as wet as Jacques Cousteau’s wetsuit. But then she didn’t redeem herself in a slew of unmemorable roles: Tokyo Raiders, Legend of Speed, Para Para Sakura, Mighty Baby. In fact by this time she was starting to register dangerously close to Meg Ryan on the annoying-o-meter.
So you see folks, I had no intention to see Lion Roars at all but as fate would have it, I did and the verdict is: ……..not as bad as I expected! Perhaps the material was marginally, I stress on the word, marginally, better than some of the watery mess that has been hitting our screens of late. Lion Roars follows the story of how a Soong dynasty poet, Seasonal Chan (Louis Koo) unwittingly managed to tame Moth Liu (Cecilia Cheung), a beautiful but feisty shrew who makes thumping her suitors to a bleeding pulp a hobby. Seeing as Moth can’t find a suitor who can withstand her fists, and it seems like she’;s the only one who adores Seasonal’s lame poetry, the Emperor decrees them to be married. After the marriage, Seasonal finds out the hard way just what a tough piece of work his wife really is.
If you already had a giggle at their names, then you’re on your way there. The first half is a silly delight, sprinkled with lots of amusing jokes, mixing up modern day and traditional pop culture to great effect — something HK films has always done really well. Glad to see the tradition still lives. Look out for the canto-poetry concert, Soong dynasty style!
The second half turns dramatic, the pivotal juncture arrives with a screech (literally) when Moth discovers that her husband had a one-night affair with the emperor’s sister. Herein lies probably the biggest joke in the whole movie — Seasonal is seduced by the princess pretending to be a lost spirit who needs to couple with the poet in order to reincarnate. Uh, huh…. yeah, either Seasonal Chan is stupid to believe it himself or he thinks his wife is dumb enough to buy that hogwash.
Moth, painfully wounded and betrayed by her husband’s infidelity, refuses to share her husband with the princess despite the orders of the emperor and opts instead to forget the whole damn thing by drinking the “Love Eraser” potion. [Bad relationship, nasty memories? No worries! Have a “love eraser” potion. Why isn’t this on the market?!] Will Seasonal be able to win his wife back now that she has no memory of his existence?
To Joe Ma’s (Funeral March, Love Undercover) credit, Lion Roars harks back to the good old days of HK comedy genre — simple, entertaining and with the right dose of silliness. Again to Joe Ma’s credit, he’s managed to extract the good performances from the whole cast and kept the whole affair from going belly flop from too many ideas and subplots. This is easier said than done as many recent HK flicks have suffered this fate, most notably Mighty Baby.
Far from smart or challenging, Lion Roars revels in its silly “leave brain at door” sentiment and at least provides you with an amusing 1.5 hours to pass the time. This lion certainly doesn’t roar but it doesn’t whimper either, it gives a friendly snarl and goes into my list of HK films this year that just managed to weigh in on the positive scale.