Happy Family

Reviewed by YTSL

For those who get annoyed when encountering more than their equitable share of hex error filled English subtitles, there is no guaranteeing that the experience of regularly coming across such choice examples in this 2002 movie as “After you were drunk that thundering night...”, “We had tragic incest” and “Yes, I know.  I am shitted” might not lead to an anguished query of “How come I am the doomest one?”(!).  Further frustration might ensue with the discovery that various in-joke references to other Hong Kong films that are made in this almost too casually put together Herman Yau helmed and co-scripted -- along with Yeung Yee Shan -- comedy require some knowledgeable interpretation on the part of many (overseas) viewers; this on account of the English language translations of their Chinese titles getting cited here rather than the more familiar English ones by which they are known (E.g., “Let’s Make Laugh” and “Her Fatal Ways” get respectively referred to in that which shares two stars with the former -- and boasts a cameo appearance by the director of the latter -- as “Seven Nightmares” and “Chinese Cousin”).

On the plus side of this subtitling equation however is the uncommon provision of English language translations for the lyrics of the melodic songs -- including one that had previously famously appeared in “Fallen Angels” (the movie, if not its official original soundtrack album) -- that get pleasantly crooned in HAPPY FAMILY by Candy Lo (and can be found on her Megacollection music album).  Maybe because of this or, more likely, due in large part to the generally quirky film’s amiable mood proving to be very catching, this (re)viewer actually found herself getting much less exasperated with these elements of it than she usually would have been inclined to be.  Indeed, for its success in putting me -- and, potentially, others too -- in a tolerant frame of mind alone, I am inclined to think that this enjoyable effort would be worth recommending.
At first glance, the unabashedly good natured HAPPY FAMILY may come across as a “Needing You...” wanna-be.  After all, it does have as its main female character an office worker whose amusing eccentricities tends to rise to the fore when she (temporarily) is a loser in the game of love.  Then there’s the fact of the woman whose personal name begins with the letter K -- though in this case, it’s Kaka (as opposed to the 2000 Milkyway Image Production’s Kinki) -- proving to actually not be the brainless bimbo that she can appear to be.  Furthermore, this story does come with the “only in the movies...” type complications that develop post its protagonist having a bachelor superior at her workplace plus multi-millionaire fall for her.  However, those who have grown weary of viewing more than a few uninspired clones of that romantic comedic mega-hit should rest assured that this particular offering -- that is replete with supporting or guest appearances by the likes of Amanda Lee (playing someone far older than she really is), Tats Lau, Almen Wong (as the strangely monikered Pig Yik), Fennie Yuen, Simon Loui, Alfred Cheung and also Herman Yau (the latter two as themselves) -- really is too offbeat to majorly follow that overly trampled cinematic path.
At the very least, with such as her nonchalant involvement in an early mood-setting tattoo exposing duel, the often entertainingly off-the-cuff feeling HAPPY FAMILY’s lead actress, Candy Lo, reveals herself to have her own appealing charms that are quite distinct from Sammi Cheng’s.  And while I don’t want to argue (just yet) that she -- who also is a singer cum actress but, apparently, is on the punkier side of the HKSAR music scene -- is a better or infinitely more watchable performer than the territory’s reigning box office queen, I do strongly suspect that the perceptibly more “proper” Ms. Cheng wouldn’t have been as able to pull off the “pink panties on the outside clad batman-like woman’s assault of a romantic rival in a bathroom with a pair of large sausages”(!) and the “ghostly apparition with dripping wet hair”(!!) visual gags with the sort of aplomb that this undeniably nonsensical in parts -- and all the better for it :) -- movie’s charismatic star appears to have in spades.
And a good thing it is that she does too, since HAPPY FAMILY’s main male personality happens to come in the form of Nick Cheung.  To be fair though, this sometime irritant is actually okay in the kind of reaction person role that he -- whose really nice, not “just” wealthy, character is known as Little Han as well as Sang -- has in this work.  To some extent, this probably is because -- unlike with Kenny Bee and Cecilia Yip (who look to have had great fun playing his unorthodox, flamboyant and sometimes downright shameless acting parental figures) -- he was not accorded the opportunity to chew the scenery in the movie.  Whatever the reason, it is one more positive aspect of an offering whose makers may not have completely succeeded in throwing out a whole spate of entirely unimaginable surprises but, nonetheless, do seem to have creditably delighted in bending and breaking a few rules here and there (including by having a concluding scene that only gets shown after the end credits rather than before them).

My rating for this film: 7.