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Happy Funeral
Happy Funeral     Happy Funeral

(left) Tian Yuan, and (right) Elanne Kong and Fama member 6 Wing in Happy Funeral.
Chinese: 六樓后座2 家屬謝禮
AKA: Truth or Dare - Sixth Floor Rear Flat 2
Year: 2008
Director: Barbara Wong Chun-Chun
Producer: Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui
Writer: Barbara Wong Chun-Chun, Cheung Fan, Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui (story)
Cast: Elanne Kong Yeuk-Lam, Tian Yuan, Him Law, Donald Tong Kim-Hong, Siu Yeah-Jim, 6 Wing, C. Kwan, Candy Hau Woon-Ling, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Tang Chi-Fung, Stephanie Cheng Yung, Philip Ng Won-Lung, Raymond Wong Bak-Ming, Karena Lam Ka-Yan, Candy Lo Hau-Yam, Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai, Sammy
The Skinny: Uneven but decent youth film that sometimes entertains before its likely departure from your recent memory. Still, it's vastly better than Barbara Wong's last film, Wonder Women.
by Kozo:

Given that her last movie was the unfortunate Wonder Women, director Barbara Wong can only improve - and she does just that with her new film Happy Funeral. A sequel to the 2003 sleeper hit Truth or Dare - 6th Floor Rear Flat, Happy Funeral is a youth film exploring your usual youth issues, e.g. love, responsibility, maturation, and the ever-growing fascination with Facebook. The film has plenty of problems, but also some genuine humor, and Wong manages to offset the obvious themes and overbearing montages with decent emotions and performances. Happy Funeral isn't earth-shaking, and wheezes to a finish thanks to a protracted and overly-sentimental finale. Still, Wong's intentions and execution are agreeable, and the film itself is a vast improvement from the crass clumsiness of Wonder Women.

Rising idol Elanne Kong stars as Ji, one of six youngsters who occupy the eponymous 6th Floor Rear Flat, the very same flat that housed the now moved-on youngsters from the original Truth or Dare. Her roommates include wannabe singer Kay (Tian Yuan of Butterfly) plus four guys, each played by one half of a singing duo. There's Bonbon (Donald Tong of I Love U Boyz), Pang (Siu Yeah-Jim, also of I Love U Boyz), 6 Wing (played by 6 Wing, of the Edison Chen-backed hip hop group Fama), and finally C Kwan (played by, duh, C Kwan, also of Fama). Together, the six hold flat parties and lounge around, all the while pursuing unrealistic dreams or phoning in their jobs. The six do express the desire to open a business together, but a suitable idea eludes them.

That is, until the grandmother of Kay's boyfriend passes on. Kay is required to attend the funeral, which is handled in typical Hong Kong-style, i.e., it's exceptionally long and somber, and features performances by Taoist priests. The other five friends attend to support Kay, but become bored, and take to chatting on Facebook via their mobile phones. That's when the idea hits them: why not start a "happy funeral business" where people can celebrate the departed person's life rather than mourn their death? Sadly, the group doesn't have the capital to start up such a biz, but they fortuitously run into the owner of a prosperous funeral business, played by Eric Tsang. He agrees to front them $10 million HK dollars if they can draw up a feasible business plan, complete with expenses, projected revenue, and probably helpful pie charts. Can these youngsters get their act together, learn the mysteries of Microsoft Office, and get the $10 million to fund their start-up?

Actually, whether or not they can actually succeed at the happy funeral business is not the issue. The completion of their their little school project is the driving force of the film, but it's all the things lost and found along the way that truly matter. Each youngster has issues, some more pronounced than others, and this minor period in their life brings them answers or solutions. Or maybe not. Actually, it's hard to tell if each character really learns more than the basic minimum of afterschool special lessons, i.e. be nice to your elders, handle your jobs responsibly, and stop screwing around endlessly. Oh, yes, and please appreciate life because hey, that's what a happy funeral is meant to celebrate!

There are obvious lessons in Happy Funeral, and sometimes Barbara Wong and company choose to lay them on thick. No stranger to overbearing montage, Wong serves up a few in Happy Funeral that are nearly cringe worthy. At the same time, the film doesn't completely capitalize on its ideas. The notion of a happy funeral - especially when compared to the standard Chinese-style funeral - would be good for some extended humor, but the concept isn't taken far enough to wring any real laughs. It also doesn't wring any real tears either, as the film's version of the successful happy funeral is just standard inspirational fluff that one can also find at a church fellowship meeting or perhaps even summer camp. When the film gets soggy it does so exceptionally - which would be okay if Wong and company managed to completely convince along the way.

The problem: they don't entirely convince, as a lot of the warm fuzzies and tears seem assumed rather than earned. Some situations are solved too easily and some antagonistic characters come around far too quickly to be believable. However, the local references and offhand humor work surprisingly well. Happy Funeral is decent for a youth film because it does manage to capture a certain segment of local Hong Kong youth, simultaneously poking fun at and sympathizing with this current generation of kids who play Nintendo DS endlessly, mess up their jobs, and sit around stewing in their own self-absorbed juices. There's some surprise and some wit in the jokes, and most of the performers are agreeable, if not charismatic. Tian Yuan is better than her role allows, and Candy Hau Woon-Ling, who plays the elderly landlady from the original film, steals most of her scenes handily. Oddly, it's a cameo from four of the original cast members that feels a little uncomfortable, as one likely won't remember what they did in the previous film. Yeah, we remember that they were in Truth or Dare, but were their characters so memorable that their appearance actually means something?

Likely not, which leads us to the biggest problem for Happy Funeral and indeed most Hong Kong youth comedies: these are films that mix safe observations on youth and romance with obvious and trite themes on life and maturation, and the result is that they're largely forgettable. At the same time, these films are so inoffensive that taking a sledge hammer to them for perceived self-importance would be too mean - like swatting a fly with a bulldozer. Happy Funeral is more pretentious than the fluffy and slick Love is Elsewhere, but it does manage to affect slightly more because its occasional crassness gives it more edge. As such, it possesses lower lows, but also higher highs than Elsewhere - though neither film is really that great, and Magic Boy is easily better than both, as it managed to serve up its youth-targeted pearls of wisdom with far more style and genuine-seeming affection. Happy Funeral is not new, but not bad, and that's already a step up for Barbara Wong. We hand out silver stars for improvement. (Kozo 2008)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles

images courtesy of Mandarin Films

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