Stephen Chow has been doing his ‘nonsense’ comedy for quite some time now. Please don’t think I’m being disrespectful by calling his brand of humour ‘nonsense’, since his style is actually refered to as ‘Mo lei tau’ in China, which literally means ‘with no source’ or in other words ‘makes no sense’. Of course this has made it pretty hard for his early films to make an impact outside of Asia. With cultural gags, random obsurdities and ridiculous pratfalls that would be at home in a Benny Hill sketch, a lot of his comedy is hugely popular in HK, but not so much internationally. Things like From Beijing With Love and Sixty Million Dollar Man, while obviously spoofing American pop culture are so crazy, they defy belief and are certainly not for everyone’s taste (for instance I don’t remember Steve Austin ever transforming into a toilet!).
However with Shaolin Soccer, Chow quickly became a worldwide sensation. This film still contains plenty of nonsense, but it’s certainly more accessible than some of his previous movies (though the use of the ‘hilarious’ song ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ in the Miramax cut is a little too much!). And now that his profile is bigger than ever, he actually appears to be slowing down a little bit. For instance, in 1992 he acted in all five of the top grossing films in HK (according to trusted source Wikipedia), though Shaolin Soccer came out in 2001, Kung Fu Hustle in 2004 and CJ7 in 2008. Of course I can’t begrudge the man a break, though it is a shame that we’re not seeing enough of his comedies in this decade!
TOP 3 STEPHEN CHOW MOVIES
1- Kung Fu Hustle- This film is probably Stephen Chow’s most accessible movies in terms of limiting the ‘Mo lei tau’ and increasing the crowd pleasing action, however it is simply sublime. The cartoonish style mixed with the wuxia parody plot is wonderfully executed, mainly because it is evident that Chow is a huge fan of the genre. In some of his past films such as King of Beggars and Legend of the Dragon, he has exhibited some nice martial arts skills, but this is where his talents truly shine. What is also interesting about this movie, is the fact that Stephen Chow is absent for quite a bit of the run-time. It’s a shame, but at the same time shows a generosity towards his supporting actors (Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu in particular are awesome). Of course he might have just been lazy, but I highly doubt that. So yeah, I can’t recommend this movie enough! (Trailer)
2- God Of Cookery- I’d say this film is a pretty good introduction to ‘classic’ Stephen Chow flicks. It’s wacky, nonsensical and completely insane, though the movie is consistantly funny! Some jokes fly over my head and Karen Mok’s make-up makes me feel ill, but there is rarely a moment where it’s not doing something to make you laugh. The whole thing culminates in a parody of Iron Chef, which makes me chuckle just thinking about it. Also to note, is that it stars Ng Man Tat who is in a lot of Stephen Chow comedies. These two have such great chemistry, which makes it a big shame that they didn’t work together on Kung Fu Hustle. (Trailer)
3- Tricky Brains- I might regret later that I placed this in the Top 3 instead of Shaolin Soccer. But my reasoning is while Tricky Brains is a stupid movie, it is also one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. Now I admit that I have a fairly weird sense of humour which might not gel with others, however this film is so relentless in its goofiness that I’m sure it’d make anyone burst (or on the other hand give them a headache). The plot is all over the place and the characters are obscenely mean spirited that you kinda dislike them, but I highly recommend that you give it a go. The gags are non-stop, so there is bound to be something you like (though if you dislike the idea of Stephen Chow playing a character called ‘The Handsome Tricky Expert’ who constantly plays practical jokes on people, then stay away as that’s pretty much the entire movie). (Clip)