Superkid (2006)

Directed by: Cha Chuen-Yee
Written by: Cha Chuen-Yee & Johnny Lee
Producers: Cha Chuen-Yee & Yang Ying
Starring: Cho Jeong-Eun, Daichi Harashima, Gordon Lam, Crystal Tin, Eunis Chan & Amy Yan

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Si Zhe (Daichi Harashima - Lost In Time) is a child protégé with an IQ rivaling Einstein's and no wonder, he's been brought up in a laboratory on the controversial Super Baby food products. Having found an online friend called Nara (in reality named Xin Tong, played by Korean child actress Cho Jeung-Eun from Dae Jang Geum), Si Zhe escapes from his confines to get to know her. He finds her in a split up family with gloss on the surface but with a father (Gordon Lam - Election 2) that isn't about to follow through on a vital promise given to his daughter. All while the bumbling goons of the corporation seeks Si Zhe...

From the wildly acclaimed and slammed Cha Chuen-Yee who at one point led the triad genre deconstruction movement via his fan favourites Once Upon A Time In Triad Society 1 & 2 and then sunk all his cred with Fall For You a few years later, all of a sudden he turns up again. It's not with a return to Category III fare such as The Rapist or Take Me but Superkid offers up a light concoction with a surprising amount of black in it plus much in between that adds up to a tally of fairly thoughtful messages. It's Hong Kong cinema refusing to be just one thing yet again but for a struggling industry, thought, wild behaviour and new, twisted ideas ain't a bad injection.

Co-writing with Johnny Lee (also the director of A Day Without Policeman), Cha Chuen-Yee puts on a wild, almost overly apparent show in terms of expression. Colourful and having fun with design within the corporate world that genetically manufacture the very best of the best, here's a scenario played consciously so over the top that Cha definitely threatens with the dangerous prospect of having one gag fall on its ass every time while beating us over the head with a humane message. Surprisingly, Cha brings some off-beat cleverness left over from Once Upon A Time In Triad Society and Superkid does make valid room for itself in the way it (correctly) urges itself to be a zany, dark cartoon and down to earth drama at the same time.

It's kids basically being steered into losing that childish innocence that otherwise means discovering your world yourself, each and everyday, prolonging your precious childhood. But here's a modern Hong Kong where commercialism and global corporations have sold the idea of growing the future of our land, at the expense of emotions and innocence lost. At the other end of the spectrum in Xin Tong's seemingly normal environment, we find a life with lies of the innocent kind, lies out of necessity, fronted by the strictly laid out rules of how Xin Tong should be a kid (too much structure). Si Zhe the intellectual and manufactured cynic begins to deconstruct this but the filmmakers are sure to never to validate any choice here. Si Zhe may as well be overanalyzing a small family unit that is in fact functional in its strict ways and that he may be the sole victim of human behaviour at its worst here. That would be poor structure though and Cha Chuen-Yee makes sure there are plenty of "I learned something today"-isms sprinkled throughout applied to all involved lead characters. Thankfully, that doesn't mean Superkid stops in its tracks despite being concrete with its dialogue and events.

All sweet stuff to an extent but throughout there's never far travel distances to surreal wackiness to issues of abandonment, human- and corporate evil to even death and honestly, Superkid probably ain't the smartest kid on the movieblock. However it attempts to be very pronounced as a kind of typical Hong Kong cinema experiment and without in any way praising it just because it's a different 2006 product, there is a charm to this more adult oriented kids movie (with a reference to the notorious Men Behind The Sun, you begin to get the idea that the young ones won't be having fun all throughout) that definitely sees Cha Chuen-Yee channeling creativity of the past. Expected cuteness and stilted acting from our young leads doesn't disrupt as Cho Jeong-Eun and Daichi Harashima get immersed into the contrasting words of Cha's and Johnny Lee. Meanwhile Gordon Lam remains fairly assured as the perfect father troubled by the mentioned lies out of necessity to preserve innocence. Crystal Tin, that never appears in wear not covered in fluffy animals, can't be considered a true asset of the production but director Cha decorates colourfully with this character despite.

2006 has given birth yet another small kid that has to be discovered for its strengths but throughout the ages, any effort taking on this many themes, comedy and darkness at once would be bound to only find acceptance with a small core audience. But Superkid is out there, allowed therefore to have a fate, and seeing as it got made, some producers are encouraging being different in an otherwise highy desperate, commercial hunt for the perfect, modified product.

The DVD:

Mei Ah presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Almost spotless, the print fares very well in the sharpness and details department while also showing off the sometimes colourful production design well.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track spreads to the fronts effectively at points but plays out largely reserved. Other sound options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1, Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1, Mandarin DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0.

The English subtitles has a few minor grammar errors but on the whole doesn't become a problem for the film. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Minor, forgettable extras are contained in the special features section, starting with a 2 minute, 35 second unsubbed Making Of that is predominantly a music video that no one will want to watch again. The Databank holds nothing, you should know that by now, while trailers for Superkid and My Kung Fu Sweetheart are also available

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson