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Wait 'Til You're Older

"Visual effects make me look like Edison Chen!"     "Our son is amazingly hot!"

(left) Andy Lau grows up, and (right) Felix Wong and Karen Mok.

Chinese: 童夢奇緣  
Year: 2005
Director: Teddy Chan Tak-Sum
Producer: Teddy Chan Tak-Sum, Cheung Chi-Kwong
Writer: Susan Chan Suk-Yin, Cheung Chi-Kwong
Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Felix Wong Yat-Wah, Karen Mok Man-Wai, Sit Lap-Yin, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Feng Xiaogang, Li Bingbing, Nicola Cheung Sun-Yu, Chapman To Man-Chat, Crystal Tin Yui-Lei, Joe Cheung Tung-Cho
The Skinny: Andy Lau apes the Big formula in this well-made comedy-drama-fantasy that's entertaining and engaging for much of its running time. Unfortunately, the film capsizes heavily beneath its own touchy-feely emotions with a third act marathon of revelations, realizations, and teary forgiveness. The filmmakers get points for doing things the hard way, but the script can't match the intentions.
by Kozo:

Andy Lau makes his first 2005 appearance on Hong Kong movie screens with Wait 'Til You're Older, and fans should be happy. A variation on the Big and 13 Going on 30 formula, Wait 'Til You're Older casts Lau as Kwong, the aged version of a young boy played by Sit Lap-Yin. Kwong wishes to escape the tyranny of his stepmother Min (Karen Mok), who was reportedly engaged in an affair with his father Man (Felix Wong) before the two married. Kwong's mother (Lee Bing-Bing) committed suicide in protest of the affair, meaning Kwong has a raging grudge against both Man and Min, and good cause for wanting emancipation from his morally-dubious guardians. Thanks to a miracle growth formula/plot device developed by a local quack (director Feng Xiaogang in a cameo), Kwong gets his instant aging wish. Is the life of an adult all its cracked up to be?

Directed by Teddy Chan (Downtown Torpedoes), Wait 'Til You're Older is an effective, though still somewhat labored effort that leans heavily on Andy Lau as its lead actor. Lau does a fine job - when he isn't upstaged by the sometimes excellent and sometimes egregious makeup and visual effects - and manages to translate the younger Kwong's mouthy, rebellious attitude into adulthood. For the first hour, the film largely plays as a childhood fantasy, i.e. what would you do if you were older and free of adult supervision? In Kwong's case, his activities include playing a couple of mean-spirited pranks on his stepmom, solving the problems of his tubby friend Bear, or spending time with his sexy teacher Miss Lee (Cherrie Ying). During many scenes, Lau brings a playfulness and curiosity that's engaging. That is, when it's not part of some larger plot-driven need to deliver warm-and-fuzzy messages.

The problem: the need to deliver messages occurs way too often in Wait 'Til You're Older. Kwong spends time as an adult interacting with all the people he did as a kid, namely his father and his teachers, but he does so in frequently roundabout and manufactured ways. Kwong passes himself off as his friend's older brother and proceeds to ingratiate himself into his father's life, such that he starts learning family secrets, plus gets the full 411 on his father's inner emotions. He also gets an eyeful of complex adult relationships, as embodied by Miss Lee and her back-up lover status to assistant-principal Chow (Gordon Lam). Whether or not he learns from all the meetings is unknown; what is known is other characters frequently spill their guts in front of Kwong. The difficulties of adult life are related to Kwong far too much - and it's almost always verbally. In growing older, Kwong should get to experience being an adult, and not just listen to endless lectures about it.

Overt touchy-feeliness in Hong Kong Cinema is nothing new. Indeed, many a local film has been weighed down by too much exposition about the inner workings of the modern Hong Kong citizen's soul…or something like that. The difficulty with Wait 'Til You're Older is it features a largely light, fantastic tone that dovetails quickly into some rather serious domestic drama. The wild shifts in tone do work plotwise, especially when it's revealed that Kwong's instant aging experience is continuous, and not just a one-time spurt. As revealed heavily by the film's marketing, Kwong ages from youth to middle age to his twilight years in an astonishingly fast time. Such a physical shocker is bound to make some characters face their mortality, and Kwong's first true meeting with his father carries a particular wallop (in more ways than one). But the dispensing of aged wisdom isn't limited to just Kwong and his family; everyone dispenses soul-baring wisdom far too often in the film. Do people in Hong Kong really receive this much sensitivity training?

This unbalanced storytelling pretty much falls on screenwriters Susan Chan and Cheung Chi-Kwong, who should do a little less telling and a little more showing. Too many Hong Kong films dispense exposition in dialogue and not in action, and Wait 'Til You're Older is yet another example. Gratefully, the film compensates with some finely-timed comedy, entertaining situations, and effective performances - especially from Karen Mok as sometimes unsympathetic-seeming Min. Wait 'Til You're Older works best when it's exploring Kwong's manchild experiences, and even when it steers into melodrama it manages some touching emotions.

Unfortunately, those emotions aren't doled out sensitively, and are instead dropped on the audience like a wet futon flung from the 41st floor of a Hong Kong high rise. The emotional excess turns the film from a touching tale into an all-out assault for us to forgive, confess, and live each day to its fullest. That may be too many lessons for a single film, much less one that still has the gall to parody The Matrix (a kitchen confrontation between Kwong and Min is given the Trinity fly-kick treatment). In retrospect, there's enough in Wait 'Til You're Older to charm, entertain, and even affect. However, the immediate reaction to the script's emotional surplus may be too much, too quickly. (Kozo 2005)

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

images courtesy of Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen