Happy Family (2002)
Directed by: Herman Yau
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Small Han Sang (Nick Cheung) works in a top position at his dad's (Kenny Bee) real estate company. The dad doesn't interfere often but during a period of interviewing new applicants, he has personally recommended Kaka (Candy Lo) who in the end gets a job at the company. A good worker and a good bond between Sang and Kaka is created. Even to the point of love and plans of marriage. Then the dad drops the bomb. Kaka is Sang's sister...
Herman Yau probably meant to be more clever when creating Happy Family, featuring obvious jokes on the arrogance that comes with being wealthy among other things but the fairly black film only lives up partially to what at its peak is only below-par Yau-satire but guess what, you'll have fun finding that out and that the flick can't produce enough steam throughout.
Sharing the basic plot with the 2001 Hollywood comedy Say It Isn't So but not being as gross about it, certain signals are projected through Yau's direction that one certainly will not judge beforehand. Because despite acrobatic wackiness from office workers or Matt Chow's butler falling down all the time, we know Herman Yau well enough to give him a chance at that decent-spot in cinema. Not painting a particularly realistic portrait of wealth but instead using the riches, the arrogance and self-centered nature of them "blessed" ones to create wackiness of the highest order, this focus on gleefully overacting Kenny Bee and Cecilia Yip isn't grating or shabby for at least half a film but doesn't progress as the running time does. These two are necessarily not standing in the way of their boy but have committed past sins that will create obstacles for the boy. When not dealing in that, the two want to bring the world the "Han Memoir" that not only has to show them in a good light but apparently distort the reality to the point that their life story is narrative straight out of An Autumn's Tale....or Titanic. With a sense of fashion that is a joke totally easy to conjure, Yau still squeezes minor fun out of the scenario and some pleasant Nick Cheung/Candy Lo interaction before much turns quite black.
Sang and Kaka are both born again kids in each other's presences and proclaiming their love 30 minutes into the flick certainly spells doom. All's right until the parents past...umm...dipping comes back to haunt them. Now the two can't chat all night, chat while taking a crap or chat at all. It's either conceal and hurt or reveal and feel shame. Still Yau pushes well, despite the audience already knowing that he ain't going inspired places. Performing well within that arena of slightly below, appearing are fun references to The Ring, no Farrelly Brothers gross out jokes but instead dips into how messed up the situation is. And it can be very much bearable.
Other filmmakers would've taken this rather easy challenge way down south and turn in a fully grating product instead. But while Herman Yau's efforts peters as the complications reaches their conclusion, Happy Family may veer away from the best, DECENT comedies Yau has given us but with yet another collaboration with Candy Lo that equals fun and pleasant at times, we still get a fairly steady romantic comedy that is gone from your memories before you know it. Nothing gained, no damage.
Widesight presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.74:1 approximately. Digital noise, high contrast and pale colours still means it's a watchable budget disc but nothing is truly right with the transfer.
Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.0 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.0 and even though I don't have a system like that, Widesight's obvious remix presents dialogue quite low at times. All's reasonably clear the further you get into the movie though.
The imbedded Chinese/English subtitles have a few minor spelling- and grammar errors that doesn't distract. A handful of scenes are displayed completely against light backgrounds to make them unreadable but you're never out of the plot. No extras are offered up.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson