Mr. Coconut (1989)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-11-07
“Mr. Coconut” is a good natured comedy that pokes gentle fun at the cultural differences between Hong Kong and the rural Mainland in the late 1980s. Michael Hui is Nam who is from that part of China where people throw ropes and swing from trees. His sister is married to Wong (Raymond Wong) who works in a women’s shoe store, the type of job that comes stamped “loser” in the U.S. or Hong Kong. The Wong household has five people—the Wongs, their two daughters and Wong’s unmarried sister Ling, an air hostess. The apartment is not really cramped since Ling travels so much but it is a bit crowded with privacy and personal space at a premium. Another person moving in, especially a gauche mainlander whose rough edges haven’t been smoothed out by the daily pressure of Hong Kong would make it unendurable. Enter Nam, a guest welcomed only by his sister.

A very young looking Joey Wong is Ling. She is gorgeous, of course, but the way she looks in her all pink air hostess uniform is almost unfair—men would throw themselves at her feet at the airport. Simon Yam has an extended cameo as Timothy, Ling’s paramour, and Tony Leung Kar-Fai has a walk-on at the very end of the movie. Both of them look younger than I thought possible. The flamboyantly costumed Maria Cordero is Wong’s boss from hell.

There are plenty of situations to show Nam’s bucolic boorishness. He washes his hands in the urinal of a men’s room and then washes an apple in it before taking a bite. There are some typical hijinks when he is allowed to wander around a reception hall full of antique vases. He unwittingly insults most of the people he encounters. Nam is the typical country mouse. Wong, his citified counterpart, is much less sophisticated than he thinks. He has a terrible job that he is terrified of losing, obnoxious and greedy neighbors and not much of a future.

Things take an odd turn when the action ventures outside of Hong Kong. Nam wins a trip to London by winning a televised contest that is painful and degrading—although pretty tame by current “reality” show standards—hoping to cash in the ticket. He isn’t able to do so and then falls asleep in the transit lounge at the Cairo airport while changing planes and winds up on a flight to the Congo. He winds up in the hands of some Congolese soldiers who get him headed back home.

Back in Hong Kong Nam has been declared dead—the plane on the Cairo to London leg of the trip that he was thought to be on has crashed. His luggage was on board so the authorities and his sister assume he is one of the victims of the tragedy. Wong’s sorrow is mitigated when he finds out that Nam had purchased a half million dollar life insurance policy naming his sister and her family as the beneficiaries. They spend a month both mourning him and deciding how to spend the money. When he shows up the family decides to hide him until the insurance money is in their hands.

The resulting scenes drag badly—the filmmakers have already done as much as they can with the friction between Nam and the Wongs. Turning the tables so that Wong has to propitiate Nam doesn’t make it any funnier the second time through.

"Mr. Coconut" is by no means a bad movie but an editor with a sharper razor blade could have improved it.
Reviewer Score: 6