Stephen Chow Sing-chi and his brand of unique “mo lei tau” humour – a sort of slapstick – are legendary in Hong Kong cinema. However, his latest work, The New King of Comedy, doesn’t quite follow the old formula.
The story draws heavily from the first King of Comedy, a story of a struggling actor trying to make it big. Like the first, it’s more of a comedy-drama than pure comedy. While there certainly are humorous moments, the main focus is on the main character Dreamy (E Jingwen), being beaten down and getting back up to pursue her dreams as an actress despite the repeated humiliations along the way.
But while there are references to the Hong Kong classic, The New King’s story and tone is more geared to the tastes of the greater China audience, with a more upbeat ending than the first. The relationship between the protagonist and her boyfriend Charlie (Zhang Quandan) is developed and twisted in a unpredictable direction before her parents (Zhang Qi and Yuan Xingzhe) come to save the day, in a wholesome display of family.
Overall, to call The New King of Comedy just a ploy to make money based on the success of the old one is unfair, but nor is it up to Chow’s golden standards. It’s mildly funny and inspiring enough – not bad for one of the yearly New Year movies, but unlikely to be endlessly quoted and constantly re-aired.