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Adventure of the King

Adventure of the King (2010)

Barbie Hsu and Richie Ren play around in Adventure of the King.

AKA: Dragon Phoenix Inn
Chinese: 龍鳳店
Year: 2010
Director: Chung Shu-Kai

Richie Ren, Barbie Hsu, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, Law Kar-Ying, Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, Huo Siyan, Pan Chang-Jiang, Gong Xinliang, Chen Zhi-Hui, Chiu Chi-Ling, Lin Wei, Wu Ma, He Yunwei, Liu Ya-Jin, Fung Hak-On, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Huang Xiaoming, Zhou Libo

  The Skinny: Choppy costume comedy that's not very good, but also not that bad considering how quality-impaired this genre usually is. Better than Flirting Scholar 2, for what it's worth.
by Kozo:
Adventure of the King is Chinastarís latest foray into retread Chinese cinema, taking a previously successful property, throwing in a Pan-Chinese cast, and hoping for some quick bucks at the burgeoning mainland box office. Unlike Chinastarís similar Flirting Scholar 2, Adventure of the King is not a sequel; instead, itís derived from the same folklore that begat the tragic Shaw Brothers classic Kingdom and the Beauty. But hey, tragedy is kind of a downer, so letís make Adventure of the King a rollicking comedy with a musical number, comic anachronisms and even a cameo from the characters in Flirting Scholar 2! Itíll even work without Stephen Chow in the starring role. At least, we hope so.

So who stars here? Itís Richie Jen, whoís actually a pretty decent actor, as seen in his work with Johnnie To and Dante Lam. Heís got low-key comic charm, is very self-effacing, and doesnít usually overact, so heís a good fit for Zhu Zhengde, the layabout Emperor who wants to experience life outside the palace because life inside is just too boring. Also, his mother (Fu Yiwei) keeps fixing him up with ugly potential brides, which isn't making him want to hang around home. Zhu hits the road with his three advisors (including Law Kar-Ying and Bruce Leung), who try to keep him out of trouble but do a fabulously lousy job. After an ill-advised gambling binge, the whole group gets separated and Zhu ends up with amnesia.

Luckily Zhu meets fiery, charitable Phoenix (Barbie Hsu), who feeds the poor with leftover noodles from her business, the Lung Fung (ďDragon PhoenixĒ) Inn, which she runs along with her wacky, borderline insane staff. Her brother (Pan Chang-Jiang) is in massive debt, so Phoenix offers to pay the full amount rather than lose her inn as collateral. Zhu doesnít really remember who he is Ė and takes on the name Lee Siu-Lung (a.k.a. Bruce Lee) in the meantime -- but he does remember eating lots of great food, and he uses that knowledge to develop tasty new dishes for the inn. Bingo, business booms, but not without consequences. People start wanting a piece of their new business, and thereís still the matter of Zhuís evil uncle (Lin Wei), whoís looking to usurp the throne in his absence.

Despite the above plot, little to zero tension exists in Adventure of the King. This is just standard commercial fluff, meaning itís wall-to-wall wackiness and filler, with occasional bursts of action courtesy of Bruce Leung. Director Chung Shu-Kai handles things in a workmanlike fashion, neglecting story in favor of gags and canned romance. The film moves along briskly thanks to its egregiously choppy editing, which allows few pauses for even laughs to sink in. Making matters worse is the completely obnoxious music score, which is overbearing, ill-fitting and steals liberally from Hawaii Five-O and even Chinastarís own God of Gamblers. The jokes are hit-and-miss, with overacting and labored sitcom setups stretching things out incredibly. Those who find little enjoyment for this sort of star-driven screwiness wonít become fans thanks to Adventure of the King. As usual, affection or simply a mild tolerance for sloppy populist filmmaking is necessary to even get in the door.

But hey, there are plusses! Some of the anachronistic gags are amusing, including one about an ancient Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise run by Wa Ma in a Colonel Sanders get-up. Law Kar-Ying is funny as the royal historian, the cameos by the Flirting Scholar 2 crew are amusing (Richie Jen even does double duty, turning up as his character from that film), and some of the supporting actors are effective, if not recognizable to the Hong Kong Cinema faithful because theyíre mostly from the mainland. Also, the filmmakers manage some fun with hackneyed but welcome plot twists at the end that make the whole film seem better planned than it probably was. The climax also gives Richie Jen and Barbie Hsu a chance to amp their acting, and they do a fine job despite treating the material with a gravity that it doesnít really deserve. Overall, itís hard to recommend Adventure of the King, but itís hard to really slam it. This genre has certainly churned out worse, and hey, itís better than Flirting Scholar 2. For simply achieving that, we should already be thankful. (Kozo 2010)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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