Romancing the Star II

With the solid success of the first film in this series, the second one made its way into the theaters a scant six months later in the beginning of 1988. Wong Jing was always one to exploit a successful film if he could and here he is both the director and scriptwriter of the first two films. While the first one was nearly imbecilic at times in its attempt at humor – though its frantic silliness often cracked me up – this one feels relatively more sophisticated and takes great glee in skewering films, TV and the media. It still has its share of pranks and pratfalls, but the biggest payoff in terms of comedy are the many film and TV parodies and its depiction of the rivalry between the two major TV stations in Hong Kong – TVB and ATV – though using different names in this film.
I almost worry when I like one of Wong Jing’s goofy comedies - maybe it was just the mood I was in – lightheaded from not eating all day – but I found this nearly consistently amusing and at times very funny. There is a parody of Peking Opera Blues that for some reason just had me laughing like a fool. Maybe it’s simply because I love that film so much, but seeing it made fun of in a style reminiscent of an old Sid Caesar routine felt just right. As more evidence of my possible dementia, I even found Natalis Chan to be more sweetly amusing than annoying – usually I want to have him horsewhipped and exiled to another time zone. Some of the routines work well, others die a slow death – but that is sort of the nature of these films when they are constantly throwing something your way.
All three of the Romancing films had an enjoyable “babe” factor – more eye candy than anything – but very fine eye candy in deed. In this one the film showcases Carina Lau and Elizabeth Lee both looking scrumptious and yummy (and a third actress whose name I am not sure of – possibly Aan Ling?). According to the HKMDB this was Elizabeth’s first film and she sparkles with zest and has a kind of dark shimmering quality about her that makes you want to meow. I have never quite understood why her career never took off more than it did – she has a lovely combination of sexuality and sweetness – she has a distinct look with her dark eyes, short hair, dramatic eyebrows and delicious lower lip. Other than perhaps Gunmen and The Greatest Lover, most of her films fell into the “B” list.
This was also one of Carina’s earlier films (her career began in 1986) – at this point she had not really developed her smoldering mature sensuality that she was to display within a few years in films like Days of Being Wild and I am Sorry or the world weary toughness that she exhibits in Girls Without Tomorrow and Gigolo and Whore. In this one she is more of a wide-eyed ingénue. Though neither really are the main characters in this film – that falls on the men – they both have plenty of opportunity to simply look good in an array of colorful outfits and by doing a little cheesecake photo shoot at the beach. Elizabeth gets more face time – Wong Jing is well known for introducing new starlets – and one could assume that perhaps he was throwing the spotlight on her to kick-start her career. The spotlight looks fine.
At the end of Romancing the Star I, Chow Yun Fat had found his love in Maggie Cheung and at the very beginning of this film he tells garage owner Stanley Fung and his two co-workers Eric Tsang and Natalis Chan that he is quitting and getting married – and that’s the last we see of Chow  - he was no doubt very busy as he was to star in a number of films (8) that year. Our three boys are in a bank when it is robbed and they are taken hostage and become media stars when they are filmed on TV. With this minor celebrity, they attempt to get a job with one TV station run by Wong Jing – who had been at the hold up trying his best to promote some violence for his news to cover – but he boots them out. It turns out Fung’s nephew Andy Lau is working at the rival station and he is able to get them a job. This station (read ATV) is getting killed in the ratings by the better-financed station (read TVB) and the guys are hired to change that.
First they have a talk show, but they get so annoyed with their guest who won’t let them talk that they just begin pummeling him on the set. They are about to be fired when the ratings come in and the show is a huge hit and they begin beating up their guests on every show. Fun is also poked at the low budget period shows, melodramas full of violin music and flashbacks and live TV when the tape of Peking Opera Blues is lost and Natalis and Eric have to substitute for two of the women characters. Much of it hits the spot delightfully and with just the right amount of loving affection for these shows.
The three girls move in next door and as expected the guys are all over them like cheap melting tar. The girls are being trained by Wong Wan Si to break into show business – she wants one of them to be Miss Hong Kong (and she trains her how to look surprised when she wins), another into TV and the other to win the Best New Talent Award. Winning these TV sponsored contests is actually the way a number of Hong Kong stars have broken into the business – Anita Mui for one. Here we get to hear Carina sing – ouch! But they soon get into the business and are making period TV shows – and being exploited of course – one scene calls for them to bathe in a lake – but all props have is a wash basin that the director is insisting they get undressed in.
Throw in a few other film parodies – two Chow Yun Fat films – Prison on Fire and An Autumns Tale – and a few that I think whizzed by me and you have a grab bag of comedy that is quite sweet and much less crass than Wong Jing typically is. I have to say I enjoyed this a lot more than I had been expecting – but maybe it is time to get something to eat.

My rating for this film: 7.5