The Romancing Star (1987)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2009-12-26
Summary: Worth missing
If comedy could be ranked on a continuum “The Romancing Star” would be closer to the Three Stooges than to Oscar Wilde. Which would not, in itself, be a condemnation of it; there has been plenty of comedy now considered classic or “high brow” that is full of scatological and sexual references and innuendoes, much of the work of Aristophanes being only one example. So slapstick, tastelessness or simply exceeding the boundaries decency and common sense doesn’t make a comedy bad. Inept execution does and this is where “The Romancing Star” falls.

Aristotle wrote that comedy is a representation of ridiculous, morally inferior but not vicious people and involves some kind of blunder or ugliness which doesn’t cause pain or disaster. It other words it is not the opposite of tragedy. But he didn’t take the audience into consideration and the first half hour of this movie would have to cause discomfort if not actual pain to those watching. It is no more than a set up so that we can follow the antics of Traffic Light, Ugly, Tin Kin and Wong Yat Fat in their constant and always unsuccessful search for sex. Five minutes of them would have made sense. Six times longer was 60 times more dreadful.

The only reason to watch this movie is that is stars Maggie Cheung. While it is early, untrained and almost raw Maggie, she still almost makes it worth sitting through the entire dreary enterprise. The hair and make-up departments didn’t do her (or her fans) any favors. She sported a very deep tan, more so than her co-star Cheung Lai-Ping, and a long pageboy with blunt cut bangs. She could have been preparing for a Hong Kong remake of “Cleopatra”. Both Maggie and Lai-Ping spent much of the film in abbreviated outfits, either workout clothing or bathing suits. This made sense both in what context there was and in that this was a Wong Jing hot babes in short/tight/skimpy costumes extravaganza Other than the form fitting exercise gear most of Maggie’s costumes were atrocious. Two dresses in particular, in which she spent most her time during the second half of the movie, had to be seen to be believed—and I still couldn’t believe them. The first was a white/silver/ivory concoction that seemed to be made of billowing chiffon and looked more like a horror movie monster than a dress. It was so huge and so like a cobweb that it could have been devouring her. She clearly couldn’t do much in that dress, like get into a car, pass through an ordinary doorway or sit down. The second outlandish dress was much like the first although a deep blue and not quite as overwhelming, although still completely impractical. Both would have been considered impractical in Georgian England where bizarre outfits were commonplace.

Regarding the men, Chow Yun-Fat showed that he could have been an excellent comedy actor. Nate Chan’s talents have always escaped me and “The Romancing Star” did nothing to change that. Eric Tsang was on his way to major stardom as a clown in Hong Kong movies, as important on the jade screen as Will Kempe was in Shakespeare’s comedies. Here, however, he was all mugging and preening without the subtlety and perfect timing that he developed. Stanley Fung came close to stealing the show. If the scenes with the four guys were built around this accomplished comedy actor they might have been much better—or at least much less bad.

There are the usual Hong Kong comedy nods to class—richer is better, except when it isn’t—and to the postmodern malleability of identity as both Tung Tung and Wong Yat Fat pretend to be wealthy which makes them automatically more attractive and personable, even though Wong is hypnotized (as unconvincingly a spell as ever put on the screen) and Tung is dressed like a clown from the 18th century. “The Romancing Star” is more annoying than anything else with its quick flashes of comic brilliance that go nowhere. The parody of a scene from “A Better Tomorrow”, for example, is run under the closing credits.
Reviewer Score: 4