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Original Title:
Tian xia wu shuang

Hong Kong 2002

Comedy, Romance

Jeffrey Lau

Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Faye Wong
Vicki Zhao Wei
Chang Chen
Rebecca Pan
Athena Chu
Roy Cheung

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Chinese Odyssey 2002

Story: The Emperor (Chang Chen) and his sister the Princess Wushuang (Faye Wong) want to flee the imperial palace. But as usual, Queen mother (Rebacca Pan) tries to stop them. Finally, the Princess manages to escape the palace, but it doesn't take long and a pickpocket steals all her money. Dressed as a man, she meets Yilong (Tony Leung), who his known as the town bully, which is the reason why nobody wants to marry his sister Phoenix (Vicki Zhao). Yilong thinks, Wushuang would be the right man for his sister. He invites her/him to a dinner and the two of them spent nice days with each other. Even Phoenix is charmed by her "husband-to-be", but Princess Wushuang is more likely interested in Yilong.
The Emperor asks his mother for permission to look for his sister and therefore he finally has the chance to go out into the world, allowing free play to his inventive talent. On his search he meets the charming Phoenix and falls in love with her. He spends his time in her tavern, while Yilong brings the Princess back to the palace. Although he still hasn't found out about Wushuang's disguise, he is surprised by the feelings he has for his "friend"…

Review: This comedy produced by Wong Kar-wai and directed by Jeffrey Lau is on the list of the so-called Lunar New Year Movies. In the course of Chinese New Year's there is an entertaining and potential blockbuster produced every year packed with nonsense humor. But "Chinese Odyssey 2002" is more than just a typical cheerful Hong Kong Comedy. Due to excellent and charming characters, great cinematography and costumes, as well as a thrilling soundtrack and especially a brilliant humor, "Chinese Odyssey 2002" depicts a real highlight in its genre.

On first sight, the story may not offer anything new and apparently only builds the framework for the typical confusions, in which women dress up as man and the other way around, without anybody noticing. And in fact, with regards to the story, that's about it. However, it is the passion for detail, with which the story is told, that makes the movie so exceptional. There are always surprises and unexpected turns that keep up suspense. Plus, it's not so easy to follow all the confusions and persons and to keep track of everything just straightaway.

But all this is just the groundwork for some of the funniest scenes ever. What's making the humor so extraordinary is its perfect timing. When we're expecting it the least, a punch line takes us by surprise, just to be followed by another and another one. Needless to say that sometimes the humor seems goofy and slapstick-like, but it never pushes too hard, so it's still funny. Due to its style of humor "Chinese Odyssey 2002" has to deal with comparisons to some of Stephen Chow's works; but the movie can easily keep up with those.

Whoever is not just convulsing with laughter because of the sometimes rather cartoon-like gags, is either almost dead or is just not used to this kind of humor. Certainly it is the typical Chinese kind of humor, but it is also open for everyone. Only very few puns fall by the wayside.
Some hints to Wong Kar-Wai's works, like "Ashes of Time" or "Chungking Express" may not be detected by those who don't know those movies, but everyone else will enjoy the way, Lau and Wong make fun of them. Apart from that, the movie relies on situation comedy, which works brilliantly!

Nevertheless, the actors are the main reasons why the movie works so well. Everyone seemed to have fun on the set. Even the most unimportant secondary characters gave their best and were hilarious, even if the character drawing stayed rather caricatural. But the movie definitely relies on its main characters.
Vicki Zhao shows a wonderful and amusing performance; so does Chang Chen whose inventions show a nice resemblance to our present. But Faye Wong and Tony Leung always steel them the show. The chemistry between those two is just perfect. Faye Wong is allowed to show her acting-skills and brings the love story forward. Tony Leung on the other side demonstrates his incredibly brilliant talent for comedy. Every facial expression and every word is perfectly used.
In addition, Tony Leung and Faye Wong give a duet! But don't panic, the music, as well as the entire soundtrack, is extremely thrilling, with a nice traditional touch and yet provided with a wink, so that no alienated feelings come up and you're actually tempted to sing along. And when Tony Leung does the Moonwalk, you'll definitely roll on the floor laughing…

"Chinese Odyssey 2002" features a very good scenery. With wonderful sets, like the imperial palace, the tavern or the cherry blossom tree, the movie knows how to please the eye. As well as the costumes, which were designed with passion for details. The entire world is colorful and cheerful.
Generally, the director Jeffrey Lau proves that he has many years of experience and knows exactly what he's doing. With pompous and beautiful images, rather unusual for a comedy, the director created a period movie, which seeks for its equals. Also the numerous freeze-ins with inserted monologues and the strange explanations, which are given afterwards, as well as some cameos, for instance by Athena Chu, provide numerous insider-gags or just cause a lot of fun.

Closer to the end, the movie gets a bit more serious, which may not go with the rest of the movie, as suddenly the love-story stands in the foreground. But apart from that there's just nothing to grumble about. "Chinese Odyssey 2002" is a colorful, jolly and incredibly good balanced comedy whose cheerful atmosphere is just fantastic and makes you smile all the time. That is, if you aren't already rolling on the floor laughing…
Fantastic actors, a nice story, great music and the fact that despite numerous good-working emotional scenes, the movie never really takes itself seriously, makes the end product incredibly funny. Kind of like a big party, where everyone gets what he wants!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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