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Papa Loves You
     

(left) Tony Leung Ka-Fai, and (right) Charlene Choi and Kenny Kwan.
Chinese: 這個阿爸真爆炸  
Year: 2004
Director: Herman Yau Lai-To
Producer: Herman Yau Lai-To
Cast: Tony Leung Ka-Fai,Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Kenny Kwan Chi-Bun, Steven Cheung Chi-Hung, Marco Lok Lik-Wai, Johnny Chen (Lu Sze-Ming), Yoyo Yiu Wing-Man, Chan Long, Parkman Cheung Pak-Man, Paul Chun Pui, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Blacky Ko Sau-Leung, Yoyo Chen, Lo Meng, Samuel Leung Cheuk-Moon, Lam Suet, Brian Ireland, Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Charles Heung Wah-Keung, Isabel Chan Yat-Ning, Siu Yee, Fung Hak-On
The Skinny: Uneven and throwaway, but not without its charms. Like many of Herman Yau's other films, Papa Loves You manages some decent emotions and fun satire among the usual commercial concessions and tired plot devices. This isn't great stuff, but it's not terrible either.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Tony Leung Ka-Fai plays sire to one of the Twins in Papa Loves You, an offbeat comedy from director Herman Yau. Leung is Yam, a piano teacher who dotes on his rebellious daughter Ellen (Charlene Choi) like a whipped schoolboy. Now that she's older, Ellen has taken to never coming home for dinner, camping out at karaoke clubs, and generally hanging with a less-desirable crowd. Instead of getting upset and grounding her like any reasonable parent would, Yam either sits by the phone and worries about her, or runs to her school to bail her out of trouble with the dean (Paul Chun). Further illustrating his emasculation, Yam runs like a card-carrying sissy, a fact director Yau dispenses in multiple long takes of Leung running like, well, a sissy. Thankfully, Tony Leung Ka-Fai is a good sport about comic embarrassment.

As parents go, Yam is likably sweet, but horribly outdated. Yam is wistfully nostalgic for the times when children doted on their parents, and were all good little boys and girls who wanted to contribute to society. Despondent, Yam takes to haunting some of Ellen's frequented establishments, which one day leads to massive plot device number one. At a local cafe, Yam heads off a possible hit on triad leader Hung (Eric Tsang), thanks to his nifty SFX-enhanced reflexes which are usually used around his house to catch flower vases before they smash into the floor. Here, he uses his skills (dubbed the "Shadowless Hands") to save a criminal bad guy, an act which forever changes his rep. No longer is he Yam, sissy father of naughty schoolgirl Ellen. Now he's Mo Ye Fei Ying, the legendary triad assassin who took out 108 bad guys during a legendary knife fight. Way to go, Yam!

Yam's new status is given to him by Ellen's schoolmates, a motley bunch led by Orange (Kenny Kwan of Boy'z) and Fung (Steven Cheung of...wait for it...Boy'z). Seeing Yam's hands in action leads the boys to believe that Mo Ye Fei Ying has been outed after a long sabbatical, so the fellows volunteer to be Yam's disciples. Yam isn't so hot on his new triad identity, but he welcomes the opportunity for the boys to spy on Ellen for him. However, both his new identity and the boys' (Or is it Boy'z's?) stalking technique comes in handy real soon. Ellen gets mixed up with real triad types, and there's nothing like having a mega-legendary triad rep to solve your problems. Yam enlists the aid of Hung (who concedes that he does owe Yam his life) and manages to stand down a real triad type played by the late Blackie Ko. Not surprisingly, Ellen finds her dad's new rep downright cool, as does every kid on the block, at school, and probably at the shopping mall, too. Sadly, all gang types know this phrase: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." That phrase applies to Yam too, even though he was never a triad to begin with. The moral of this story: having Shadowless Hands can be a problem.

With the notable exception of Master Q 2001, Herman Yau's filmography has never seemed geared towards a fluffy youth-idol comedy like Papa Loves You. The film possesses all the hallmarks of said commercial genre, including a cute lead actress (Charlene Choi), fluffy aw-shucks romance (between Choi and Kwan), and the obligatory triad plotline where threatening gang-types show up and glower in an ineffectual manner. Bitchy schoolgirls, simple moralizing, cheesy song interludes, and verbalized platitudes on the perils of parenthood also show up, which threaten to render Papa Loves You as embarrassing crap. When everything get solved with a fist-in-the-air proclamation on how it's cool to be a good teenager, one has to wonder if they should take this stuff seriously. As such, it's frightfully uneven, and given to limp gags and unconvincing acting. With Tony Leung Ka-Fai around, one can only fear The Spy Dad 2.

Thankfully, Papa Loves You never devolves to that threatened level of suckage. Though the cheesy, borderline embarrassing stuff is present and accounted for, Yau throws some of his usual, more welcome tricks our way. There's a healthy helping of benign satire concerning triad lore (the Mo Ye Fei Ying legend is entertainingly debunked), comically ineffectual policemen (Lam Suet shows up in one of his patented supporting turns), and the role of triads in schools (Yam's new identity as Fei Ying makes him #1 on the police blotter). Yau even throws out-of-nowhere jokes concerning the film industry into the mix, and some canny cameos (from Cecilia Cheung and Chinastar honcho/ex-triad Charles Heung) provide some welcome distraction. It's all a little light, but at least it's amusing.

Plus, Tony Leung Ka-Fai is a fine comedy lead, and Charlene Choi isn't as whiny and insufferable as she sometimes can be. The two make a convincing father-daughter team, and though the climax of the film is given to cheesy drama, there are some quieter moments between the two that seem to carry familiar emotion. Likewise, even the obligatory flirtation between Charlene Choi and Kenny Kwan seems to make sense. Amidst the cheesy moralizing and dopey platitudes, Yau manages to find some time to let his characters breathe, and the result is that they seem likable, if not wholly real. Otherwise, Papa Loves You walks a fine line between being jokingly satirical or embarrassingly cheesy. Given the film's tendency to put a platitude-heavy solution on each and every situation, you can either read the hokey moralizing as satirical fantasy, or as wishful moralizing that's as compelling as dead ants. It's up to you, and really, neither interpretation will lift Papa Loves You to "great cinema" status. This is just likable fluff which can be somewhat entertaining, and should never be mistaken as award-winning stuff. And it's definitely better than The Spy Dad. (Kozo 2004)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
 
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