Monday, December 12, 2011

Chinese Movie Review: The Return of Pom Pom

The Gweilo's Movie Ratings for The Return of Pom Pom
The Chinese movie review continues below this info box!
Category Rating
WTF Meter 3.2 out of 5
MST3K-Ability 3.4 out of 5
OVERALL QUALITY 1.2 out of 5
Chinese Movie The Return of Pom Pom

Director Philip Chan
Actors Richard Ng, John Shum, Deannie Yip, Lam Ching Ying, Kara Hui, Philip Chan, James Tin Jun
Year 1984
Format Viewed VCD Fortune Star JS/VCD/3338/HK What is a VCD?

Just how far into the closet is it possible for a movie to be?  This seems to be the question that director Philip Chan set out to discover with his 1984 classic Chinese movie, The Return of Pom Pom.

The Return of Pom Pom is a classic Police Buddy Film, Hong-Kong-Chinese-movie style.  The two police officers that are buddies are "Beethoven" and "Ah Chiu" (gesundheit!), played by John Shum and Richard Ng.  They are really good buddies.  Here they are getting married:

Two grooms, one bride:  Beethoven, Ah Chiu, and bride
To be fair, only one of them is getting married to Deannie Yip here.  The other one is just along for the ride.  And speaking of rides, before the actual wedding vows can be exchanged, the buddy cop partners get a call on their pagers and immediately leave the bride at the alter.  They jump into their souped-up Police Bridemobile (TM pending) and rush to the scene of a suicide attempt.  More buddy cop movies should have bridemobile chases.

When they get there, Beethoven gets ready to negotiate with the suicidal jumper,

"Lend me your lipstick and make-up pencil"
then he talks the suicidal jumper down by pretending to be his gay lover.  How does that even work?  And more to the point, what is director Philip Chan trying to establish at the start of The Return of Pom Pom?

Philip Chan basically sets up the first scene of The Return of Pom Pom to proclaim that it's much better to be alive and miserable than to be any kind of gay.  Think about it from the jumper's point of view:  He's in suicidal despair.  He doesn't care about anyone or any thing.  He's ready to end it all.  But then along comes Beethoven who accuses him of being gay.  If I die now, he thinks, everyone will think I was gay!
"We're doing it for the gay movement"
So he changes his mind!  It's as simple as that.  Living with the torture of suicidal despair is much better than posthumous assumed gayness, apparently.

"I'm not gay, I'm not gay!"
To paraphrase Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "This movie doth protest too much, methinks!"

Beethoven and Ah Chiu celebrate their not-gayness on the rooftop.
Wasn't one of them supposed to be getting married?
The wedding eventually happens.  Through a contrived, nonsensical plot twist, Beethoven immediately moves in with the newlywed couple.  He quickly replaces the photo of the happy bride and groom with a photo of Ah Chiu (bless you!) and himself:

And he also starts walking around the apartment in various stages of undress, leading to a bunch of rather painful and tedious visual comedy gags:
Um . . . ok?
But this is also a police buddy film, which means there's a rather convoluted crime for them to solve.  Lam Ching Ying plays a bad guy named The Flying Spider who has stolen some police evidence.  Beethoven and Ah Chiu (do you need a tissue?) have to get that evidence back!

This involves some of the most ridiculous police work you've ever seen, such as a police investigation that involves dressing in outdated swim-wear and whistling the tune "Tea for Two" at various guys.

Yes, there's a lot of definitely-not-gay police work in The Return of Pom Pom.

It also involves numerous non sequiters, like this:
"You're here?  Good.  Remember my turtles?"
Out-of-nowhere lines like this make me love Hong Kong cinema even more!
Meanwhile, on the romantic side of this Chinese movie, Beethoven eventually manages to snag a girlfriend of his own.  Here he is, all dressed up for his first date.  Except it looks like he's gotten all his heterosexual fashion advice from Richard Simmons:
Beethoven ready for his heterosexual encounter.
Honestly, this is all rather tedious and slow, and not really very funny.  The movie finally picks up near the end, when they confront The Flying Spider, Lam Ching Ying, who is pretending to be paralyzed.  By the way, Lam Ching Ying is one of Hong Kong cinema's best fight choreographers, and his presence in this film makes the whole thing a lot more bearable!

Watch for how Ah Chiu tests to see if Lam Ching Ying is lying.  And there's some amusing potential for paraplegic kung fu:
If anyone can pull off a paraplegic fight scene, Lam Ching Ying can.
But Lam Ching Ying quickly gets bored of pretending to be paralyzed, so he starts fighting like normal.  But then he apparently gets bored of fighting like normal, so he ends the fight scene in one of the silliest ways I've ever seen.

Bottom Line of this Chinese Movie Review:  It's silly and mildly amusing at times, but the whole "we're not gay" thing can get really tedious after a while.

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