My Kung Fu Sweetheart (Review)

My Kung Fu Sweetheart

aka Ye maan bei kup

Cecilia Cheung as Phoenix Shangguan Lingfeng
Yuen Qiu as Mom
Yuen Wah as Dad
Wong Yat-Fei as Principal
Leo Ku as Dragon
Sammy Leung as Kiddie Kim
Hui Siu-Hung as Lincoln Lam
Ma Shuchao as White Eyebrows
Wong Jing as Uncle Itchiban
Directed by Wong Jing

Wong Jing directs another campy action-fest, and manages to score a hit. A send-up of kung fu films, Cecilia Cheung stars as the daughter of two kung fu masters, who learns the skills herself, but must fit into the modern world. Of course, we have an evil kung fu master, school rivalries, a guy in a falcon suit, and love to deal with. The parents are played by Kung Fu Hustle‘s own odd couple, Yuen Qiu and Yuen Wah. They seem to be making a good living acting together, besides this, they also have starred in two Kung Fu Mahjong films together. We also get a crop of campy actors mixed with many established actors, and even Wong Jing himself as Uncle Itchiban. For some reason this film rings better than most of Wong Jing’s recent fair, probably due to the cast working together well enough that you don’t notice when it drags. The gags flow fast, for the most part, and for once the campiness of Hong Kong cinema works out for the best. Though I’s still prefer that Hong Kong put out more stronger fair (and it has been trying recently), camp like this makes the wait between good films bearable.

We start in the distant past of 20 years ago. A young girl sees two people flying past the moon and rushes to tell her parents. Her parents are the smiling Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu, who both tell her she’s seeing things. They are the Landlords from Kung Fu Hustle. Yuen Wah has been making films for 35 years, having the ability to duplicate the martial arts styles of many people. This let him be Bruce Lee’s double for a while. Yuen Qiu was an actress for a short time in the 1970’s before retiring, only to return after Steve Chow begged her to take the role of the Landlady in Kung Fu Hustle, and has since then done well for herself in the film industry. Their daughter is named Phoenix, and later a teenage Phoenix is awakened by storms, and a large snake and cat are loose in the house. These animals are really Kung Fu villains, who have arrived to kill her parents, which you should realize by now are really Martial Arts masters. They save her and have a neat fight with the villains, who morph from animal to person a few times during the battle (though we could always use more morphing shots.) Snake Man and Cat Girl are eventually taken down, with Phoenix aiding by slipping up some poles so Cat Girl can’t grip. Phoenix is eager to learn Kung Fu, and her parents are more than happy to tell her she’s old enough to go to Mount Hiu and learn. This is amazingly coincidental that she discovered their secret on the very day she became old enough to get lessons herself! Okay, it’s amazingly cheesy. But this is a cheesy film, so we’ll take it at what it is. Next thing we know, we’re hang gliding over Mount Hui as Phoenix looks down and sees all the Martial Artists training, including a girl in scarlet with pigtails who has a determined look on her face. She’s the main rival, Rouge, who will compete with Phoenix to be the best of the best. This is apparent when she doesn’t return Phoenix’s wave. So, if you ever want to hide that you are a villain, be friendly, it’s what politicians do all the time, as well as John Wayne Gacy, though I’d say anyone fooled by his clown costume deserves it. Clowns are evil, and always will be evil. Deal with it.

Principal of the school is Wong Yat-Fei, best known to Western audiences as the Eldest Brother in Shaolin Soccer. The Principal walks backwards, something he vowed to do until the dangerous criminal White Eyebrows has been brought to justice. White Eyebrows stole an ancient Kung Fu script that shows how to do the Classic of the Nine Negatives, but it is written in an undecipherable language. If he ever translates it, he will learn the invincible move. Wong Jing is also there, as teacher Itchiban, who is an expert in shielding techniques. As Phoenix begins her training, she asks the Principal is she is allowed to date those who do not learn Kung Fu. She is told yes, as long as they don’t know what she does. Also, he tells her she’s destine to fall in love with a man who will be able to see her when no one should see her. Afterwards, we get out training montage, and then jump to present day.

Phoenix is now played by actress/singer Cecilia Cheung (last seen here in The Promise), and is late for work. A gigantic line is waiting by the elevators, and her scheming boss is ready to fire her if she’s a second late. Phoenix is not one to get in trouble, so she starts scaling the outside of the building! Inside, company president Lincoln Lam (yes, the president is named Lincoln!) has just named Dragon as the new CEO. Dragon is actor Leo Ku (seen here before in Task Force) and will be playing our love interest. Well, not our love interest, Phoenix’s love interest. He spies her climbing up the wall outside while no one else is looking. She draws a smilieface on the glass and scatters off, beating her boss upstairs. Later in the day, she becomes Dragon’s new secretary, just after Dragon was telling his perverted best friend Kiddie Kim about her. Kiddie Kim is actor Sammy, aka Sammy Leung, the king of overacting. He was also in Task Force as well as many other films.

That night, Phoenix is back home for her birthday. We find out her parents are having marriage problems, as Mom has gone off into the stock market and real estate, making millions. Her Dad, on the other hand, is a failure, and left his wife out of jealousy of her success. He hasn’t seen much of his own. When Phoenix does return home, she sees a man there, and starts to beat him up. It turns out he’s been invited there by Mom, who is trying to set Phoenix up. Handsome Wai is his name, and he acts like a pervert on mushrooms. Dad returns home, and starts to beat up Handsome Wai as well, thinking he’s a new rival for Mom. Mom starts blocking the punches as Phoenix tries to distract Kiddie. Dad says he has a new important job, the COOO of the zoo. What is a COOO? We shall see later, much later. Dat’s gift to Phoenix is a Giant Hawk. Hawk is a man in a bird suit, but is played as an actual Giant Hawk. He is directly from the Return of the Condor Heroes Chinese TV series, one of which starred Andy Lau. Now we are just borrowing whole characters from other works, but, once again, why not? Giant Hawk is on the toilet reading a newspaper as this plot point is developed. Dad also has news that White Eyebrows has learned the Classic of the Nine Negatives, so everyone is on high alert.

Hey, across town, Dragon is at a mahjong party with other businessmen who are discussing a new scoundrel named Boss White (Hmmm…two bad guys with “white” in their name, coincidence?) who they are preparing to boycott. Their preparations are for naught, as their party is crashed by two Kung Fu Goons who precede to kill everyone: men, women, men, women, and men. The male goon has a retractable claw weapon on one of his hands, making him look like Wolverine meets Predator. The female goon just kills people the old fashion way. Dragon manages to live by pretending he’s dead, a trick so old it has to work. He quickly spoils it by getting himself on TV interviewing about the massacre, thus alerting to everyone that he lived. Phoenix and her mom both see the broadcast, and her mom points out that he will be killed or the assassins will be killed. Dragon is in the hospital, which means the press corps in Hong Kong are even more pushy than in the US if they’re interviewing injured people in the middle of a crime scene. After a humorous scene where Kiddie Kim overacts some more, Kiddie Kim leaves only to have the two goons torture him to find out the location of Dragon’s room. They get it, but as they attack Phoenix arrives and deflects them, and then jumps out the window carrying Dragon with her. Giant Hawk is flying outside, and they land on his back and fly away (with some very bad visual effects here) and are chased by a CGI arrow shot by the male goon. The CGI arrow employs it’s kung fu CGI arrow power and curves around a bit, and hits Dragon, infecting him with centipede poison.

Phoenix can get rid of the centipede poison by only one method: drawing it out of Dragon herself. The only way to do that involves her getting naked! This is a nod to the same series that Giant Hawk is from (or so I’m told) and is why so many men in China poison themselves, hoping their special someones will perform naked poison removal. It usually only ends in tragedy. Here, it’s ending in sexiness, as we get some near-naked shots of Miss Cheung. Between this and The Promise, she got very provocative this year. The better for us. Mom walks in on her withdrawing in the buff, and chastises her a bit for getting involved. Mom won’t help, since she’s still retired, and also mentions that in the old days when you did something like the poison thing you had to marry the guy afterwards. Phoenix is undeterred and will go to find Dad for help.

Dad is working at the zoo (as the COOO, remember?), so she heads there now. First she runs into Uncle Itchiban, who is working with the crocodiles. We get my favorite scene in the film as he fights the crocodile after it grabs his watch when his hand is down its throat. He then pulls out a different, better watch. After telling Phoenix where her father is, three crocodiles jump him, and he uses his kung fu to free himself. Phoenix finds her dad, the COOO. Dad is sitting by the bathrooms, handing out small strips of toilet paper to the patrons. COOO=Chief Outhouse Only Officer. In Chinese, he says something to the effect of “Chief Peeing and Pooping Officer” and they have a similar abbreviation joke. He agrees to help Phoenix defend Dragon.

Back home, Dragon awakes, only to find he’s trapped in the house by Giant Hawk, who won’t let him leave. Dragon tries various means to escape, using a bat, a knife, and even calling the equivalent of 911, 999 (who don’t believe his Giant Hawk lies!) Dragon gets help from Mom, who is relaxing in the tub and set up a sheet ladder for him to escape, which he does and then promptly heads to work (what a work ethic!) At work, Kiddie Kim is walking all wobbly thanks to his many loose tendons, and President Lincoln Lam introduces his daughter…it’s Rogue! Not the X-man, but the girl from earlier that was the adversary of Phoenix! No, not the X-man, either. There are entirely too many X-man names in this movie. Rogue likes Dragon as well, and remembers the school principal telling her that she’ll meet a man who was injured in the buttocks, just like Dragon was (the arrow landed there.)

Rogue and Phoenix instantly recognize each other, and head to the women’s restroom. Now we men finally find out why women go to the restroom in packs: They kung fu fight each other! Now I want to go to the ladies’ room! So Phoenix and Rogue fight and fight and fight, smashing up the bathroom and even crashing through the walls into the men’s room! They end in a standoff, but Rogue hasn’t been keeping up with her training, as her mother took her and fled. We find out it’s because her father is White Eyebrows, and her mom left him and hid her to be safe, leaving the kung fu world behind. Let that be a lesson to you, never marry anyone whose last name is “Eyebrows”. White Eyebrows has deciphered the Secret of the 9th Negative! It turns out that the unknown language it was written in was English! D’oh! Maybe it was written by Marco Polo… White Eyebrow got himself a good English teacher, and learned the secrets. Another valuable lesson this movie teaches us: education is key.

Now Dragon has some bodyguards at work, Dad and Uncle Itchiban. They do a hilarious spoof as they bodyguard the heck out of him, wearing suits and sunglasses, blocking everything in Dragon’s way as he goes to his desk, pausing to pose for imaginary cameras. They kick around a foil ball for a bid, getting Dragon fed up with their antics. Meanwhile, White Eyebrows mind controls Rogue’s mother and tries to force her to kill Dragon, but rogue interferes and stops her, and her mother says she must kill both Dragon and her husband, the president.

President Lincoln Lam gets a pool party thrown in his honor, at his mansion, because of the Emancipation Proclamation or something, and even his chief rival/scoundrel Mr. White is invited. He shows up, as the Kung Fu folk think he is familiar but cannot place him. Why they haven’t put this together by now I do not know. Mr. White (aka White Eyebrows) gives Rogue’s mother poison to kill the President with, and threatens her, until the heroes interrupt. A nice big cool fight happens, and people fight around all over the place, Uncle Itchiban and Dad get kicked around a lot, and at one point Uncle Itchiban finds himself in a taxi, and leaves the picture! More movies need that option, of escape by taxi. This movie is undeserving of such a designation as of yet, as it’s not that bad.

The heroes know they are outmatched so are running off, but Dragon is once again injured but the poison, and as Phoenix escapes with him on Giant Hawk, they head toward Mount Hua and the Kung Fu School to treat him, the only place that can cure him. Giant Hawk heads the wrong way chasing some girl bird tail, so they have to spend the night somewhere first. Dragon is dying, and he and Phoenix share a kiss. They make it to Mt. Hua the next day. The only way to cure Dragon is to give him a medicine that will give him 30 years of kung fu knowledge, but will cause him to forget everyone he loves. After this awful news we get a love song sung by Cecilia (Phoenix) and Leo Ku (Dragon), buy the soundtrack at your local record store. Order now, and get a free Giant Hawk mini-bust, a $19.95 value free.

So they do it (the medicine, you pervs!) and Dragon wakes up with no memories of Phoenix. The Principal tells them that the only way to defeat White Eyebrows is to use the school’s most powerful maneuver, the Technique of Pure and True Heart. The only problem is it requires two pairs of people, two couples of a man and a woman who are in love. What Dragon has is estranged parents and a lover who doesn’t know who she is. They head to try to recruit Mom (who is dealing with her pick for Phoenix’s boyfriend from earlier having the hots for her now.)

Hey, we still have some other plot stuff to deal with, so Kiddie Kim is walking in the rain with Rogue, and suddenly they are attacked by umbrella-wielding thugs who fly down from the sky like Mary Poppins. They are the goons of White Eyebrows, and proceed to stab Kiddie Kim in the butt. Twice! That’s satisfying butt-stabbing. Rogue realizes that he’s the man she’s supposed to love, so she surrenders to the Umbrella Goons to save his life. White Eyebrows then demands President Lincoln Lam surrender or they’ll kill Rogue. Lincoln has figured out what is going on, and says he’ll turn himself in, as he loves Rogue like she’s his real daughter. He’s about to sign a contract giving all of his business interests to White Eyebrows’s control, but then the Four Heroes arrive! Dad, Dragon, Phoenix, and Giant Hawk! Okay, Mom still hasn’t showed up yet. They have the perfect place to fight in, it looks directly from a video game, with massive Tetris-block-like columns placed at random. The fight is mobile, and soon moves into a parking garage, so now cars can go flying as well. Mom shows up at this point, because she pretty much has to for the plot to advance. Dragon also remembers that he loves Phoenix, and now we got tow pairs of lovers in love, so they set up their Technique of Pure and True Heart. They line up, and can shoot beams out. Beams of love or something. White Eyebrows makes a cool-looking dragon effect to attack them with, which they repel, then push White Eyebrows deep into the Earth, trapping him. Thus the day is saved. Hooray!

In the Future….

Phoenix and Dragon are married, and have a daughter, who sees people flying outside while Dragon and Phoenix act like Phoenix’s parents in the beginning of the film. And bloopers during the credits that aren’t covered by the subtitles so non-speakers like me miss out on all the fun.

Wong Jing managed to produce a film that was enjoyable without being incredibly insulting. The fact the film is supposed to be a fun fantasy film helps it immensely, Wong Jing should stick to trying to do entertaining films as opposed to exploitative films, as he seems to have lost his knack for the second group. Too bad he’s not listening, as the upcoming film Naked Avengers is due soon, directed by him and sounding amazingly similar to Naked Weapon. Hopefully it leaves the gallons of sucktitude at home. A film like this would never win major awards, but is fun enough to kill a lazy afternoon by heading to the theater. Weaknesses of relying on the pairing of Yuen Qiu and Yuen Wah didn’t affect me as much, having missed both Kung Fu Mahjong films so the pairing is still fresh to me. I can imagine that after seeing them together so many times people would eventually get sick of them. That doesn’t seem to be happening yet. As for now, this film accomplishes what it seems to be made for, to give you a good time for a bit. With so many films failing at even that simple task, we must call My Kung Fu Sweetheart a success.

Rated 7/10 (Fly to the mountain, CGI arrow, enraged rival, The Claw, The Claw’s partner, Doubleshot of Double-butt stabbing!)

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