Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002)

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 01/03/2011

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 12/31/2010

Despite having an amiable cast and a crew that has been behind many of the better Hong Kong historical comedies, Jeff Lau's Chinese Odyssey 2002 never really picks up any steam during its' running time, instead leaving behind a shallow stream of tired retreaded jokes that the actors seem to be reciting in order to make their next mortgage payment.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 09/08/2007
Summary: More Hits Than Misses

When I first watched this three years ago, I didn't like it at all. In fact, I strongly disliked it. I've never liked Faye Wong and I'm so-so on Vicky Zhao Wei, but mostly I found the movie to be disjointed and the jokes stupid.

But I watched it again this week and actually liked it. Maybe I went into it with less than zero expectations, but more likely I just accepted it for what it was. One thing it is, is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. The colors and cinemotography are world class. The acting works; the two female leads took care of their assignments (though I still don't like Faye Wong much) and Tony Leung proved again that he's one of the best actors working anywhere. He plays his character with the perfect amounts of naivete and bluster. Is there anything this man can't do?

The story itself is simple enough, though the fact that both lead actresses dress as men and Faye Wong's character gets into a love triange with Tony and Zhao Wei, who play brother and sister, makes it a little confusing at times.

One thing that didn't improve much with a second viewing was the humor; some of the jokes are too broad and on the dumb side. There is a lot of satire on epic period piece romance movies, and much of it is amusing and effective. I would compare this movie, in concept, to a Monty Python film in which great attention is given to costume, set, and cinematography, with actors doing silly things with great intensity. The difference is that the visual is superior in Chinese Odyssey 2002, the jokes inferior. But it always stays true to itself, and that's worth something.

I'm a fan of Jeff Lau, but this isn't his best work. Still, it's decent and the love story is affecting. You may have to watch it a couple times to be convinced. On the other hand, it's not for everybody and a second viewing may annoy the heck out of you.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 06/24/2007
Summary: I thought it was great

Ming Dynasty Emperor Zheng De (Chang Chen) and his sister, Princess WuShuang (Faye Wong) long for adventure away from the sanitized life inside their fortress home. The Princess, disguised as a man, encounters Li Yilong (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and she falls in love with him. Li is somewhat confused over his feelings for his new friend, whom he accepts as a man, and endeavours to marry “him” off to his sister, the mannish Phoenix (Vicky Zhao). But, though she is more than willing to accept, Li’s worrying feelings for his friend won’t go away. And then the Emperor himself escapes the castle and meets Phoenix and falls in love...

Chinese Odyssey 2002 is a sparkling romantic comedy based on an old Chinese legend of love that transcends social boundaries and produced by Wong Kar-Wai. There’s certainly nothing new here – all the gender confusion gags are present and correct and the romantic angle is completely by the numbers (you can confidently predict at which point our loving couple is going to get torn asunder and that they will ultimately get back together right at the end), but it’s written with heaps of wit and charm. There are gags about Ming-era speed cameras, the unreliability of Wuxia super-powers and parodies of Wong Kar-Wai’s Film Noir voiceovers.

No doubt cast because of their on-screen chemistry in Wong Kar-Wai’s sublime art house rom-com Chungking Express, Tony Leung and Faye Wong are joined together again in this, and are every bit as good together as before. Tony Leung really is Hong Kong’s Mr Reliable – he always gives a strong performance and this is no exception. Faye Wong is quirky, charming and loveable as usual. I have been a fan of Faye Wong for a while and I must admit I kind of took her performance for granted back when I first saw this in 2002. On seeing her now, you really do see that the film and music business lost something special with her “retirement”. Vicky Zhao, although glammed-down as the Tomboy-ish Phoenix, is still irresistibly watchable, especially when heartbroken over being spurned by the Princess – only to fall in love with the Emperor!

I don’t know if it’s the influence of Wong Kar-Wai, but Chinese Odyssey is also shot beautifully. Almost every shot has a kind of fantasy feel to it – even the comedy scenes. It is let down on the audio front though, with some pretty invasive dubbing of voices. It’s a terrible shame that a film that excels so well at the visual should screw it all up on the audio, but that’s the way it goes, I suppose. Besides, we get a couple of musical numbers from Faye thrown in, so it’s not all bad news. The original DVD release came with the OST, and although it’s a little samey in places, it’s still a nice memento of the film.

I find it increasingly hard to find films that make me laugh out loud, but this one still does. Nearly ever gag hits the spot, and though trite, the cross-dressing and gender confusion mayhem are always going to raise a smile in even the most cynical viewer.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 01/27/2003
Summary: Ummm.........

I don't know what to say about this movie. I watched it until the end, but i wasn't entertained. I only laughed once and found the story pointless. There is a few songs put in here and there but i don't understand chinese or like chinese opera so i am quite suprised so many people liked this, and recently was given best movie award by the HK movie critics society.

Do i have to understand the chinese language to fully grasp this movie?

Probably, but since i can't speak/understand the language, i wondered what i was watching that other people thought was so entertaining...........


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 08/29/2002

20 minutes into the film, I thought I was going to love it. Another 50 minutes passed, and nothing really happened. So, in conclusion, this movie starts out great and goes downhills pretty fast.

This is not the first movie to ripoff its soundtrack from that of Ashes of Time. Of course, Wong Kar Wai can do that because he directed Ashes of Time. You can also see that when they're playing the music from Ashes, Tong Leung's character from that movie is transferred here. It is him from Ashes of Time, the serious and expressionless lonesome swordsman.

The beginning had some funny moments. At the end, Zhang Zhen's "custome" will force the laughters out of you as well.

The other themesong in the movie is also a remix of a famous folk song.



Reviewed by: Fongie
Date: 06/13/2002

Chinese Odyssey 2002 is based on an actual legend during the Ming dynasty. This story has been remade many times by many directors and different actors and actresses. However, this version of the legend has slightly turned into musical.

The main characters inclued the emperor of the ming dynasty (Chang Chen), the princess(Faye Wong), a trouble-making brother (Tony Leung), and a boyish sister (Vicki Zhao). The story begins when the princess finds the palace life boring and runs away, and while this is happening, Tony Leung promises his sister that he will find a sutor for her. When the princess goes into his village disgused as a boy, the sister falls inlove with her, however, the princess is attracted to the brother. Eventually the princess needs to leave the village before coutiers try to catch her. As things get more complicated, the king comes into the scene falling inlove with the sister. During this time, the brother and the princess have an adventure together. In the end, the princess and the brother is seperated because of their social class by the princess' mother.

The originality of the story was not very well done considering this story was done many times before. However the muscial aspect of this movie brings enlightment to the viewers when Tony Leung and Faye Wong does a duet together. There was a few comedic times to the movie however it was done in very lame exaggerations.

The costumes in the movie was very well done and very creative, although it did not quite follow the actual costumes during that era. But the whole story was not acurate and that was a comedic element to the movie.

Overall, the story was not really pleasing to the audience because it was confusing at points of the story or that it got to the fact that the part was not funny anymore. None of the actors worked on getting messages across to the audience, perhaps thinking that the story was to simple and easily understood. Some of the minor characters were not developed has much as they should. Each character should be able to explain their actions, however, there was a narator to do it. This element to the story did not bring excellent acting abilities of all the characters played.

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 06/05/2002

I was expecting typical Jeff Lau-style mayhem, fast-paced, hyperkinetic narrative and plot lunacies galore. Instead, this is a rather slow-paced film with an almost mellow feel. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. There aren't really any truly inspired, hilarious over the top moments a la Eagle Shooting Heroes, and many of the gags that are included feel somewhat forced. So anyone expecting lots of laughs will be disappointed. But the film more than makes up for it with gorgeous production design (costumes, settings), beautiful cinematography and a rather melancholic, touching sentiment that permeates the story and turns what is initially a tired, not very funny gender-bdending period comedy into a heartwarming parable about the nature of love.

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Zhao Wei (despite being poorly dubbed) display ample charm, Chang Chen acts mildly goofy, Athena Chu does a surprising, delightful cameo, and even Faye Wong, who I don't consider a particularly charismatic actress, does a good job in making the audience care about the fate of these characters. The whole gender-confusion thing has been done to death in these type of films, yet it still works and even takes on a surprising little twist at the end.

The DVD presentation is first-rate. Recommended.

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 05/27/2002
Summary: Slowly Creeps Up on You..

..that you're watching a well done satire with alot of heart thrown into the mix. Good to see Wong Kar Wai & Jeff Lau with a great cast. Peach Blossoms, Gender Benders, Drama & plenty of spoofs of numerous movies if you've watched enough of them to grasp this kind of comedy..!!??.. Charm is what really saves and guides this whole mess along. Not as good as past efforts by these guys but still highly amusing nonetheless. Watch it more than twice..!

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 05/14/2002
Summary: Enjoyable Romp

Jeff Lau's "Chinese Odyssey 2002" is an enjoyable romp more so for its cast filled with stars (Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Vicky Zhao) than its comedy. The comedic elements provide for a few laughs and chuckles but nothing gut-busting. Kay On's script is amusing, clipping plot contrivances from the likes of Shakespeare, involving gender swapping and role reversals. Some of the themes are typical of a film by Wong Kar Wai, like alienation and relationships, except that they are played for laughs. So it is of interest to note that Wong Kar Wai produced this movie.

"Chinese Odyssey 2002" is more humorous than out right funny, but it does contain shades of comedy found in a Stephen Chow film. Much of this is due to Jeff Lau and Kay On. Lau directed and On wrote "A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box," and the sequel "A Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella," both Chow movies. The film's cinematography and art design are the outstanding features. The colors are vivid and match the palette for the costumes. All of the women in the cast are framed to look gorgeous, as if they have porcelain skin and even flesh tones. It is very hard to suspend one's disbelief when all of the women looked beautiful, regardless of how Faye Wong, Vicky Zhao or Athena Chu dressed.

"Chinese Odyssey 2002" is another in a series of fluff-filled comedies to come out of Hong Kong. And it seems that the more Hong Kong filmmakers churn these comedies out, the better they become at making such films.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/14/2002
Summary: Average

Comedy? Well, I suppose some of it is funny, but as I have said before, Tony Leung just doesn't look right in comedies, the 'jokes' just made me laugh at HIM. I'm not trying to put this film down, because it is entertaining, but I am a little concerned at how high the other reveiwers rated it.

Worth seeing if there is nothing else around, otherwise it's a miss.

Rating: 2.5/5

Reviewed by: snookie_1
Date: 03/30/2002
Summary: excellent stuff...

the story of 4 people in the ancients days of wandering the "jiang-hu" on horses, princesses escaping the palace and just lots of "mo-lei-tau" stuff going on...faye wong is a princess, chang chen is the emperor, they try to escape the palace but only faye gets out...she's dressed as a man and meet tony leung and vicky zhao...vicky falls for faye dressed as a man and comedy ensues...very funny stuff tho the song and dance routines get tedious at times...vicky zhao was very cute and tony leung was great as usual, u get to see a funnier side of faye wong and chang chen in an afro is a sight to behold...funnier moments include when tony and his gang are caught while fighting and his "principal" has a machine that prints out hand-drawn pics that he uses to prove that tony was speeding when he was riding on his horse...u also get to see faye wong go crazy...great huh??=)highly recommended 9/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/19/2002
Summary: Hmmmm

It has been well established that Jeff Lau is on a different planet to the rest of the movie making world, and what particular planet that is has yet to be identified. His movies tend to be very hit or miss - often within the space of a couple of minutes.

I think that overall CO 2002 is probably a miss for me, though it's hard to say why... it just never quite clicked for me. I wasn't particularly concerned about the characters I guess, or their fates. I didn't find much of the humour amusing either. There's some nice costumes and what-not, which would probably look great on a DVD, but obviously not on vcd.

The movie covers some fairly traditional plot points - cross dressed lovers w/ gender confusion comedy, lovers from different social strata with Romeo & Juliet syndrome to conquer. It's basically a romance at heart, but doesn't seem quite sure about it until about half way through the movie. There's lots of extraneous goings on that serve no purpose to the end result.

Rather than Chinese Odyssey 2002, it would have been better titled Ashes Of Time 2002, as there are quite a few plot points that seem like re-exploration of the same territory. Close enough that I wondered briefly if it was meant to be a prequel or something - especially since chunks of the ASHES soundtrack are used here wholesale. It's not, but it's obviously meant to remind us of it - not surprising given Jeff Lau & Wong Kar-Wai's past. There are a number of points where Lau parodies Chungking Express too, a source of vague mild amusement but not exactly up to the minute satire.

One of the things that really bothered me whilst watching the movie was some really bad post-dubbing. Not just because the lips & facial expressions were badly synced - but also because I'm sure quite a lot of the lines were dubbed by completely different people :-/ I'd be interested to hear the Mandarin audio track...

I think my recommendation would be to wait for the DVD, where a sharp widescreen picture and removable subtitles will doubtless improve the aesthetic experience. I don't think there's anything else in the movie that you need to rush to see.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Souxie
Date: 02/17/2002
Summary: great stuff

Thought this movie very funny, at times moving, most times well-written and slick at all times. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is an absolute steal as usual, and (despite the bad reviews I've heard) Faye Wong is good, very funny and bang-on. The film's worth seeing just for Chang Chen's afro and Tony and Faye's sing and dance routine. Magic, seamless, only maybe let down by the love-torn ending. If you want it funny every second til the credits, you ain't going to get it here. But it's still a good ending, and even makes you think. What else could you want from a new year movie? Will buy the DVD when it comes out!

Reviewer Score: 9