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Fun, the Luck & the Tycoon, The
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by Jay Seaver

"The Hong Kong remake of what with who now?"
3 stars

I ordered the Blu-ray of "The Fun, the Luck & the Tycoon" from Hong Kong on the strength of the cast (Chow Yun-Fat and Sylvia Chang!) and director (Johnnie To!) doing what looked like a fun light comedy, and then found myself kind of gobsmacked to look it up and see it described as a remake of "Coming to America", as if I should just know about things I like intersecting like that. The combination is a lot to live up to, but it manages to be zany fun even if a lot of people in it are coasting.

Tycoon La Bo-Sun (Chow Yun-Fat) is the scion of one of the richest families in Hong Kong, and though something of a spoiled brat, not a bad person at all. His mother and aunt have long planned to marry him and cousin Cindy Chan (Nina Li Chi) to make sure that all the money stays in the family, but Bo has no interest in that. Having borrowed his butler's jacket, he wanders into a charity function where he is mistaken for one of the caterers and plays along. Impressed with the female half of the sibling team running the catering, he answers the help-wanted sign at East East Wonton incognito, happy for the lousy pay and dormitory housing with hard-drinking 12-year-old Rocky Ma (Huang Kun-Hsuen) and four other immigrants with musical dreams if it means he gets to know Hung Leung-Yuk (Sylvia Chang Ai-Chia) better. She's already got a boyfriend, Jimmy Hsu (Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui), who has a Canadian passport as well as enough money to impress Yuk's brother Hung East (Ha Yue), while the butler (Wong San) is trying to keep Bo out of trouble while coaxing him to come back.

Director Johnnie To Kei-Fung and screenwriter Hoi Dik open the movie with a great little bit of physical comedy, brings a little more with Cindy's arrival, and has progressed all the way up to an actual pie fight (well, cake fight) before Bo has actually arrived at East East Wonton. To and company seem to be having a great time making the film as a live action cartoon, and while the "Production Design" credit To is given alongside the one for directing appears to mean something a bit different in Hong Kong than it does in Hollywood, the team has had a ball building both Bo-Sun's lives as colorful fantasies with plenty of silly bits in the corners.

It's not exactly a set-up built to have Bo do much soul-searching about how much he has versus others or discover that he's not good enough at anything practical to be worth Yuk's interest, so it's probably good that Chow doesn't play Bo as too deep a character. Instead, he's more or less Bugs Bunny, floating above situations with a silly grin because he knows he can't actually conceive of being in real trouble, at least until the last minute when he realizes Yuk may not in fact be that impressed. There are bits of Eddie Murphy in the performance as Chow laughs at his own jokes and the chaos around him, with Chow also playing a second role, although it's far from an imitation (it's kind of odd that Murphy was apparently well-enough known in Hong Kong for the dialogue to name-drop him twice in a remake of his movies, even if fame isn't necessarily fandom).

There's an enjoyable group around him, even if Sylvia Chang gets stuck in nice-girl territory as Yuk. Which isn't to say Nina Li Chi's Cindy is more appealing; she's just ridiculous in a way that's much easier to build jokes off of. Huang Kun-Hsuen gets the most entertainingly goofy role as Rocky, selling the heck out of this half-pint with an abrasive adult's soul, while Wong San's earnestly devoted butler may be half the reason why the audience cheers for Bo more than finding him obnoxious, because that loyalty had to come from somewhere. That Bo's singing co-workers are played by Beyond, apparently one of the hottest groups in Hong Kong at the time, is a pop-culture joke that probably worked a little better at the time but which doesn't thud here.

Thirty years can make a lot of comedies that a studio churned out to make sure the theaters they owned had something new every month with whatever was hot at the time into weird curiosities, and this movie is no different; I'd probably never have paid it any attention if later films hadn't made Chow Yun-Fat and Johnnie To into favorites and it might have stayed on the shelf longer if "Coming 2 America" hadn't made it momentarily a bit more relevant. It is, nevertheless, still fairly enjoyable: Everybody involved seems to be having a good time while still being the sort of pros who know how to make studio product into quality entertainment.

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originally posted: 03/08/21 16:19:45
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USA
  25-May-1990

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Johnnie To

Written by
  Dik Hoi

Cast
  Yun-Fat Chow
  Sylvia Chang
  Nina Li
  Lawrence Cheng
  Kun-Hsuen Huang



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