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Beauty and the 7 Beasts

(left) The beauty and five of the beasts, and (right) Natalie Meng in Beauty and the 7 Beasts.
Chinese: 七擒七縱七色狼
Year: 2007
Director: Zhong Qing
Producer: Wong Jing, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai
Cast: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Natalie Meng Yao, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, Jo Koo, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Chin Kar-Lok, Wong Cho-Lam, Lam Chi-Sin, Eileen Tung Oi-Ling, Emily Kwan Bo-Wai, Wong Tin-Lam, Winnie Leung Man-Yi, Candace Yu On-On, Yedda Chao, Ankie Beilke, Ada Wong Chi-Hom, Lam Suet
  The Skinny: Interminable silliness masquerading as fun comedy. This Wong Jing production is recycled old stuff that will be funny if you catch 10 minutes while flipping channels. However, if you decide to watch the rest of the film, you may end up hurting yourself. It'll be your own fault.
by Kozo:

Not content with merely swiping ideas, Wong Jing goes for the ultimate cinematic heist: the remake. His latest celluloid larceny, Beauty and the 7 Beasts, is based on a 1970 film called The Lucky Seven, though one wonders if the original was as crass and uneven as this purported attempt at mass audience crowd pleaser. Aside from your standard assortment of standard Hong Kong Cinema faces, including Eric Tsang and Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, the film offers the debut of Wong Jing's newest discovery, Natalie Meng Yao, whose generous figure and pure good looks are supposed to make her an automatic "It Girl". Has Wong Jing discovered his new Chingmy Yau? Or is Natalie Meng just another pretty face destined for one-hit wonder status? And more importantly: is Beauty and the 7 Beasts a good film?

Automatically, the answer to that last question is "no", though that judgement is most definitely a qualified one. Beauty and the 7 Beasts is a member of the illustrious Hong Kong Cinema genre called "anything goes sloppy comedy", with the sometimes added bonus of laziness and movie parodies thrown in. What that means is Beauty and the 7 Beasts was never meant to be a good film. Narrative, subtext, storytelling, emotional depth, style - these things are purposely not employed here. This is crass stuff meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator; it's not supposed to make sense, and attempts to amuse through lowbrow gags and name actors acting like complete and total loons. The film succeeds at delivering the above, making it somewhat of a success, though again, that measure is a qualified one. Aiming low is not an excuse for making crap.

Taking place in the seventies, the film stars Eric Tsang as Teddy, a once-popular actor who is now broke and has to resort to chicanery to earn some dough. Assisted by his frumpy assistant Wendy (Jo Koo), Teddy takes on five would-be popstars, who pay him cash to teach them how to act suave and cool. The lessons immediately tax believability, because it's a rug-wearing Eric Tsang giving lothario lessons to a bunch of generally unattractive dopes, played here by Gordon Lam, Eddie Cheung, Chin Kar-Lok, Lam Chi-Sin, and Wong Cho-Nam. The five guys mug or sometimes prance about (one character is fey and named "Broke-back"; oh, I'm dying from laughter), while we're supposed to buy that Eric Tsang is desirable to comely stewardesses, who all show up at his apartment at the same time for a quick hop in the sack. Sitcom-style hijinks ensue, and presumably, we're all supposed to buy in and find the recycled gags funny.

The plot thickens when the fleshy Pearl (Natalie Meng) shows up, and reveals that she's Teddy's daughter. However, that conflict is tabled when Teddy's rival Rocky (Nat Chan Bak-Cheung) appears, threatening others with his smarmy and annoying presence. He even develops a thing for Pearl, much to the disapproval of Teddy's five apprentices. In retaliation, the five play a prank on him that allows them the opportunity to search his rectal cavity not once, but three times in less than ten minutes! Yay. This incenses Rocky so much that he attempts to bankrupt Teddy, leading to the sight of Teddy taking on a production assistant job. Everyone is unhappy that Teddy has fallen from grace, so they band together to help him get back what he lost, plus engage in shtick that parodies The Transformers. There are also a bunch of bikini-clad babes, one of them being Wong Jing's biological daughter, plus some attempt at "can't we all get along" pathos. I would go on, but recalling more about the plot would only depress me.

Beauty and the 7 Beasts is a total success as a sloppy Hong Kong comedy, because that's what it is: sloppy and possessing of an exceptionally Hong Kong-specific sense of humor. The long-winded verbal exposition, cartoony sets (Teddy's swank apartment is a marvel of primary color production design), and occasionally inspired performances (Jo Koo and Lam Suet are standouts here) provide some diversion, and laughs are sometimes had. However, the funny jokes are frequently offset by long stretches of sheer tedium, and the actors here are second if not third-tier stars, negating the fun of seeing big stars act like loons because, well, these aren't big stars. The film succeeds at meeting its genre's requirements, but the genre itself is already pretty shoddy. With expectations this low, you better be able to hit the mark more than 80% of the time, otherwise you've probably failed. This film hits the mark about 40% of the time. That's not a good thing.

Another minus is that sexy new star Natalie Meng isn't very sexy or interesting, a killer combo since she's the focus of the film's marketing. Thankfully, she doesn't do all that much, but that still goes against the film's marketing. Basically, this movie sets up expectations it can't follow through on, meaning that it's bad. The final nail in the coffin is the identity of the director, Zhong Qing, which is really a pseudonym for someone who wanted his name taken off the movie. That someone is actually Chung Shu-Kai, who once made the terrible Feel 100% 2003, as well as a little cinematic gem called Nine Girls and a Ghost. At this point goodwill should be so low that I'm forced to bring up some positives simply to create balance in the universe. One high point is an end-credit musical sequence that's surprisingly funny. Also, the film features bizarre Andy Warhol-like paintings of Eric Tsang and Nat Chan that are ripe for giggles. The numerous body cavity searches may be a delight to those who find anal intrusion to be the height of hilarity. Another positive is you can simply choose to watch something else. You may thank yourself later. (Kozo 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen