A Chinese Odyssey Part Two – Cinderella
aka 西遊記完結篇仙履奇緣 aka Sai yau gei: Daai git guk ji – Sin leui kei yun
Written and directed by Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
Thus continues the fairy tales and romantic adventures of a guy named Joker who is really Monkey King with A Chinese Odyssey Part Two – Cinderella. The sweeping action and epic timescope of the original is expanded on, while the extra time gives us a chance to get to know a few of the characters we saw little of in the first part. Don’t worry, there are generous amounts of ridiculous slapstick, special effects fights,
Part of the fun of these Hong Kong films is the varying quality of the copy that is used for DVDs. In this case, the copy has burnt in subtitles, which calls some characters slightly different names than in Part 1. I’ve done my best to try to rectify the situation, but welcome to planet reality. If you missed the review of A Chinese Odyssey Part One – Pandora’s Box, it is here.
Even more fun, the plot of Part Two is vastly more complicated, and is rendered further difficult because several characters switch bodies in the second half. And yet, despite the zaniness, it works, as actors get more to do and the danger of repetitiveness is staved off for a while. While a tale as large as this can run the risk of becoming far too long, the brisk pace prevents fatigue from setting in. Some reviews I read thought this section was confusing and ruined the film, but I see it more as helping things from getting too stale. And if you try to follow things too logically, your brain will explode, as the timeline gets completely disrupted by all the time travel. Let’s just say there is probably a reality where King Bull opens a casino in Hill Valley…
The lovers on the roof scene at the end has become an iconic shot that is instantly recognized by people who haven’t even seen the movie in years. It’s also one of my favorite moments in Hong Kong cinema, because the whole thing is perfect. The closure of the lovers story, the chance for Monkey King to talk one last time to the woman he loved but cannot love, the looks of the torn emotions of the two characters on the roof, the look back as Monkey King walks away, and especially the music, all making a perfect storm of awesome.
The tales of destined true love that endures lots of hardships and doesn’t usually end in happy endings are common themes in the works of both Lau and Chow. This time they even have characters literally speaking to the heart to learn the heart’s desire and true love. Another common thread in Steve Chow’s films is him having a whole host of women who fall for him. It’s good to be the king! Add to that to his reputation as a playboy and how different the women are in some of Chow’s later films, and you get the feeling there is some sort of hangup about women. But that’s a whole article to itself.
The Chinese Odyssey films would end up becoming so beloved that attempts would be made to recapture the magic. Lau would return with A Chinese Odyssey 2002, and try again with A Chinese Tall Tale, and then Yet Another Pandora’s Box. While each of those films have their own merits, none of them achieve the level of special significance that the originals did. Chow also used the nostalgia of these films to excite everyone with his return to directing for Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, though that film is so tonally different that they are only connected by the true love theme. Several other adaptations of Journey to the West are in the pipeline, the popularity of the stories will ensure their retelling for generations. Some will attempt to be creative and unique, while others will rely on the past and be lazy and derivative. We may one day see a challenger to the throne, but for now, it is time to hail to the Monkey King, baby!
We first see the Four Kings from the Nantian Gate and a dude named Erlang God – he’s Triclops Guy! They’ve come to capture Zixia, who along with her sister Qingxia were the wicks in the Heavenly Lamp of Buddha. But Zixia has run away to find her true love – the lone person who will be able to pull out her magic sword from her sheath – and doesn’t want to go back with these guys. So she beats them up and runs off.
She then heads to the mountain cave, and Joker warps in as we saw at the end of the last film. She says she’s Spider Web Immortal, brands his foot, and steals the Pandora’s Box. Joker tries to get the box back, and realizes he has to deal with this woman for a bit. Now she’s calling herself Qingxia, which was the name of her crazier sister. We figure out that the two sisters are in the same body, and Qingxia only comes out at night. Joker starts spinning his web of lies, claiming he’s not Joker, but his twin brother, Broker.
The next day they are at the market together, where Joker absently yanks out her sword while talking one of his speeches. He doesn’t realize the significance until she starts declaring that he is the one. Joker rejects her and says he just wants the box back. Lin Zixia leaps inside his body to talk to his heart (at which point he’s frozen in place.) During this visit to the market, Pigsy and Sandy see him and report back to their Master.
That night, Joker is wandering around outside and see the Monkey King vs Goddess sequence that began the first film. This time it is the extended version that goes on quite a bit longer. There is even Back to the Future Part 2 style inserts as Joker tries to grab the Pandora’s Box from this timeline and just ends up getting hit in the head and accidentally sending the Longevity Monk into the future.
But not too far in the future, as Longevity Monk appears the next night, and Joker and he attempt to avoid getting their life-breath sucked away by Old Black Mountain Devil, who is doing so to the local population. Luckily, a Bugs Bunny-style bomb trick is the solution to that problem!
King Bull captures Joker to force marriage his marriage to King Bull’s sister, Miss Xiang Xiang. And Longevity Monk will be dinner…eventually. Things get a bit cool here, as the wedding guests have all sorts of animal faces – dog, lizard, yak, bull, frog… They are all rubber masks and it rules.
Xiang Xiang is drooling at the thought of being married to Joker, while King Bull says he’s going to marry a second wife because his first one is old. The new wife will be…Zixia!
Some members of the audience object and cause problems over this new marriage announcement, and doubly so when King Bull’s wife Iron Fan Princess shows up and demands to know what is going on. Joker tries to maneuver around all these various problems to get to the Pandora’s Box, but that problem is complicated because Iron Fan Princess is yet another woman Monkey King dated and dropped. She sets up a secret rendezvous with him at midnight, and Joker sets up a secret rendezvous at midnight with Zixia to get the Pandora’s Box.
If you enjoy random musical numbers, Longevity Monk breaking out the “Only You!” song in jail will be right up your alley. Pigsy and Sandy are also sneaking around trying to rescue their master.
The midnight rendezvous turn into disasters as treachery and fighting causes everyone to have their mind switched! Qingxia and Pigsy, Sandy and Xiang Xiang. Even though Qingxia is in Pigsy’s body, Zixia is still in Zixia/Qinxia’s body. Everyone is trapped for 49 days, which is how long it will take to gather up the energy needed to switch everyone back.
Iron Fan Lady arrives and soon everyone is fighting while Joker is caught in all his lies trying to convince every woman he loves them despite just being after the Pandora’s Box so he can escape. Eventually he falls off a cliff and lands on the guards to some criminals, saving them and the nurse him to health in return. Inside the Silken Web Cave.
The Jing Jing from 500 years past then shows up, and Joker gives her a recap of how they meet which is interspersed with footage of the last film and reenactments with the criminals. She has no memory of any of it because it hasn’t happened yet, but Joker just wants to marry her, and Jing Jing jumps inside him to talk to his heart. Joker is also told that he says Zixia’s name at night by one of the criminals.
Zixia is still set to marry King Bull, even though she believes Joker will come save her. Jing Jing leaves Joker via note, saying she wasn’t his greatest love because someone else left something in his heart. Jing Jing’s sister Spider Woman then arrives looking for Jing Jing, and slaughters Joker’s new friends! And then him!
At the wedding, chaos is happening as Qingxia in Pigsy’s body frees her sister Zixia and fighting breaks out. Which is interrupted by another body switching attack that ends with King Bull’s sister Xiang Xiang trapped in a puppy, and Qingxia trapped in Xiang Xiang’s body.
Joker talks to Goddess after finding out that Zixia left a tear in his heart. He becomes Monkey King, even though that means he will have to shed his human desires. And thus he does, showing up and the toilet humor flies. As does the action scenes, as the film kicks it up a notch, with duplicate Monkey Kings and lots of flying around and battling. Monkey King also has to reject Zixia repeatedly during the fighting, but despite all that, she dies protecting him.
Enrages, King Bull is killed, and Monkey King escapes via the Pandora’s Box to 500 years later.
In this future, without King Bull or any of the other events that happened (or characters getting reincarnated into bodies of other people), Jing Jing and Spider Woman are sisters who sell bean curds and are married to Assistant Gang Leader, who is a high scoring Scholar.
Meanwhile Joker and Zixia are both back as lovers atop a roof, and have been there for days, the Warrior who is Joker not willing to admit he has feelings for her. Monkey King takes over the body of the warrior to kiss her and tell Zinxia he loves her.
Then Monkey King has to leave on his Journey to the West. He looks behind, remembering everything that happened to him on the adventure, and all the feelings, because the memories of them is all he has left.
Rated 9/10 (jewelry, Erlang God, breath of life, be our guest, be our guest, be our guest, be our guest, be our guard, a genius)
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