Director: Jeff Lau
Starring: Nicolas Tse, Charlene Choi, Chan
Po-Lin, Fan Bing Bing
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 22 December 2005
A Chinese Tall Story tells a little-known tale about the Tang
Monk, Tripitaka, before he embarks on his arduous journey
to bring the sacred sutras from the west, and achieves deification
after successfully negotiating Eight-One Tasks to prove his
faith and resolve.
we see them for the first time, the Tang Monk is leading his
three disciples into the city of Shache. No one would know
that it is here that the boyishly innocent Tripitaka will
meet his greatest challenge.
a fierce battle, his disciples are captured by the evil Tree
Spirits. Tripitaka luckily escapes. Undaunted, he sets off
on his own to find a way to save his disciples, only to fall
into the hands of the Lizard King and his army of Amazonian
imps. Tripitaka is placed in the custody of Meiyan, a young
imp who is the personification of ugliness. Meiyan falls in
love with him at first sight: not for his flesh – which
brings immortality if devoured, but for his passion. So from
then on, the love-struck imp stalks Tripitaka every hour of
the day. Not only does she make fun of him, she also sets
a love trap for him. Unwittingly, Tripitaka falls into the
trap and violates the Heavenly Code.
the ancient and mythical past, not only are spirits plentiful,
so are forms of life from unknown sources. Princess is one
of them. She is quite a rebel even by today’s standard:
resisting a pre-set marriage, and turning herself into an
inter-galactic runaway. Like so many before her, this unearthly
beauty falls at once for the cool but handsome Tripitaka.
Meiyan instinctively senses competition, picks a fight with
Xiaoshan but loses. She warns Tripitaka off her, but the Tang
Monk will have none of it. Harshly branding Meiyan a love-cheat,
Tripitaka decides to side with Xiaoshan instead. Meiyan is
deeply hurt. In the meantime, Xiaoshan tries to help the Tang
Monk rescue his disciples, but is no match for the Tree Spirits.
As her alien army is about to be routed, a brave warrior selflessly
throws herself into the fray. It is a brand new Meiyan –
an ugly duckling no more. The war is won in spectacular fashion.
Meiyan risked her life to rescue Tripitaka and his disciples,
she gives herself up to be judged by the Temple of Heaven.
Tripitaka is torn between passion and righteousness, and is
forced to raid the Heavenly Palace for the gallows-bound Meiyan.
After an epic and bloody struggle, the two are pardoned and
sent back to earth by a benevolent Buddha. There they commence
their westward journey with the Tang Monk’s three disciples
– Meiyan in the form of a white mare as token punishment
– striving to accomplish the Eighty-One Tasks and save
If you grew up watching Hong Kong slapstick movies in the
1990s, you’d remember Stephen Chow playing the legendary
Monkey God Sun Wukong in A Chinese Odyssey (1994) and its
brilliant follow-up sequel in the same year.
more than 10 years, director Jeff Lau is back with another
twist on the well-loved Chinese classic Journey to the West.
With a larger budget and vast improvements in technology,
this movie falls into the convenient trap of losing focus
and the essence of telling a proper story.
as what is supposed to be the retelling of a love story that
happened during the Journey to the West, the movie begins
with Tripitaka leading his three infamous disciples into the
city of Sache. There, the three of them get captured by an
evil tree spirit. It is then up to the holy monk to save his
three pupils. The twist comes when he begins falling in love
with a young imp who personifies ugliness.
premise does sound interesting, and this is the same director
who gave us the wonderful Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002) starring
Tony Leung and Faye Wong. Underneath the laughs of his last
work, there was a touching story which made audience feel
for the characters. But his latest offering seems to be more
interested in showing what it is capable of, rather than telling
a good story.
were countless scenes in the 103-minute movie which featured
spectacular visual effects achieved with cutting-edge technology
and post production graphic work. In fact, there were a few
battle scenes which felt like carbon copies of video games
young boys would enjoy a lot.
only are the computer generated effects showy, the cast in
the movie makes a point to make you notice them as well. Take
Charlene Choi for example - yes, the hideous make-up of the
imp she plays does amuse for a while. But one would have to
bear with her annoying imp character for over an hour before
she morphs into her beautiful self.
bad boy Nicholas Tse makes an attempt to breakthrough his
cool image by playing the irritating sensitive new-age monk,
which can be rather exasperating to watch after a while. He
is just not as endearing as Law Kar Ying’s Tripitaks
in 1994’s A Chinese Odyssey.
there are other supporting characters played by Chen Bo-lin,
Fan Bingbing and Isabella Leung. Old-school actors like Yuen
Wah, Hu Hui Chung and Kenny Bee pop up as cameo characters,
and they are truly a joy to watch.
movie gets high points for its production value though. The
sets are beautiful and breathtaking, thanks to the vivid imagination
of the art director Bill Lui. There should also be kudos to
costume designer William Chang for his fantastic interpretations
of the outfits worn by the many deities, monsters and humans
in the movie.
particular outstanding aspect of the movie is its soundtrack
score. Composer Joe Hisaishi, who is also Japanese anime director
Hayao Miyazaki’s muse when it comes to music, has done
a very good job for this movie. Calming woodwinds are suitably
used to bring out a character’s heartfelt emotions,
while harsh brasses escalate the war between good and evil
to another level.
bad then, that these strong points cannot bring the movie
to greater heights. With recycled lines from Hong Kong auteur
Wong Kar Wai’s movies, and several other physical slapstick
jokes which do not come through, the whole movie feels directionless
this may not be an entirely bad thing. As long as this movie
does not take itself too seriously like the other fantasy
epic The Promise, which is also in cinemas now, it can still
the end of the movie, there is some decent attempt to relay
some thought-provoking messages about love and sacrifice,
and these themes are brought out quite affectingly. However,
the damage done before that still makes the movie short of
becoming a memorable cinematic experience.
movie boasts of impressive visuals and music, but this tall
story may still fall short for viewers with high expectations)
by John Li