Super Energetic Man
Written by Johnny Lee Gwing-Gaai
Directed by Dung Do Cheung Mei
I’m off-brand Popeye the Sailor Man!
A bootleg Hong Kong version of Popeye? Yep, Super Energetic Man transplants Popeye to Hong Kong cinema, brings a good portion of cartoon violence, and then goes completely nuts! Super Energetic Man plays like it’s trying to be a Stephen Chow comedy: It’s got copious copyright “borrowing”, cartoonish violence, scenes that make little sense to fill out the mo lei tau, and Lee Kin-Yan. As a Popeye film, it barely qualifies, with much of the plot running off in random directions, sometimes not even involving any of the main characters. But it just qualifies enough on the rare occasions On Do-Do whips out a can of spinach, shoots it up in the air (the spinach being played by green confetti), munches it down dramatically, inflates his arms, and does superhuman deeds.
The fake Popeye is named On Do-Do (Edmond Leung Hon-Man), and he’s a humble newbie lifeguard who mysteriously often dresses in a sailor suit. His first appearance is disrupting the complicated seduction plans of Captain Lorento (Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong), who throws rats at women who are in rafts, then “saves” them from fake sharks. This overly-complicated plan fails when On Do-Do tosses a skewer into the “shark”, and earning the unwanted gratitude of hot babe Maltese, who will spend most of the film chasing after him and declaring him her boyfriend. But On Do-Do’s heart belongs to another…
On Do-Do and Princess Lychee (Gigi Lai Chi) are in love, they met on the internet. In 1997. “But ours is internet love, I can’t retreat from it,” says On Do-Do. Also they’ve never sent photos to each other, so when they do meet, it is a mystery what each one looks like. But once they do meet, sparks fly, at least until the many many times someone comes in to disrupt their union. Princess Lychee is a real princess, from Kuwite, and because of her great beauty, many men have turned heel in obsession with stealing her away to make her their bride. Hence, her Uncle Pat spends the beginning of the film battling some random soldier who professes her love and tries to kidnap her (Lychee protests that she’s never even met him!) and later Captain Lorento and Mad Dragon also try to steal her away. With all these creepy dudes stalking after her, On Do-Do becomes the best guy in the country simply because he’s the only one who let’s her choose who she wants to date. Also he helps save her from the creeps who take her agency, which often makes up for the various lovers’ quarrels.
Captain Lorento heads the lifeguards, and plays the comic foil Bluto analogue. He obsesses over seducing women, becoming extremely frustrated that he can’t get a girl despite every other male character getting one rather quickly into it. Captain Lorento focuses his rage on On Do-Do, whom he blames for his bad luck, and plots to seduce Lychee. That’s easier said than done, because Lorento is a fool and On Do-Do often shows up in the nick of time to defeat him. They even play a prank on Lorento, resulting in a scene straight out of Police Academy 3, with Lorento running around nude trying to hide his shame. The largest problem with Lorento was he was far too goofy and thus not threatening enough as a final antagonist, so they brought in a scarred fighter named Mad Dragon to also steal Princess Lychee away. Captain Lorento plays Starscream to his Megatron, pledging obedience but plotting to toss him aside and get Lychee for himself. It’s at this point there are actual injuries to On Do-Do, and the film briefly becomes serious before again dipping back into light-hearted tone. Let’s just say the ending involves a comically oversized mallet and cannibals.
I live in a garbage can!
Basically, there are lots and lots of conflicts, most of which are resolved by On Do-Do chugging down some spinach (called Fairy Weed occasionally by the subtitles), swelling his arms, and punching people. In between the physical confrontations are plenty of other scenes of comedy, some of which continue on far beyond what you would expect. The scenes don’t add much to the plot, but fill the running time with plenty of mugging and goofy things. There is a side story involving two of the other lifeguards, Brother Cheung (Wayne Lai Yiu-Cheung) and Fai (Ng Ga-Fai), who end up getting girlfriends from two women who come to learn first aid. The most important things to take away from that tale is Brother Cheung continually calls Fai “STUPID!” (Did they see UFH or something?), and Teresa Mak Ga-Kei plays one of the women (Sara Au Ji-Yan is the other).
Law Kar-Ying makes a small part better as Lychee’s Uncle Pat, who is her guardian. He defends her in an opening fight, and later follows her around with On Do-Do, convinced he’s up to no good. He also battles Mad Dragon and helps On Do-Do save the Princess. But most importantly, there is a long scene where he makes the most ridiculous sandwich and tea while spying on On Do-Do and Lychee that is hilarious, compounded by the frozen in shock face of the guy next to him on the park bench. It’s my favorite part of the film, and it has nothing to do with being Popeye.
Super Energetic Man is ridiculous cheap dumb film making, and even though it was dumb and had several scenes that were wastes of time, overall it was just charming enough to recommend to the curious. But if you don’t like Hong Kong comedies, you will probably hate Super Energetic Man. And you might hate it even if you like Hong Kong comedies. But at least you get to see the second movie featuring an Asian Popeye (The Dragon Lives Again was the first, with Eric Tsang as Popeye teaming with a fake Bruce Lee!) Not shockingly, it’s rather obscure, and will probably remain that way. So think of this as a spinach-powered boost to its visibility!
Rated 6/10 (Rats!, Night of the Living Dead cameo, dancing bartender, roofies, can’t keep awake, confetti spinach)
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