Wait 'Til You're Older (2005)

Directed by: Teddy Chen
Written by: Cheung Chi Kwong & Susan Chan
Producers: Teddy Chen & Cheung Chi Kwong
Starring: Andy Lau, Karen Mok, Felix Wong, Howard Sit, Cherrie Ying, Gordon Lam, Nicola Cheung & Feng Xiaogang

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2006:
Best Screenplay (Cheung Chi Kwong & Susan Chan)
Best Actor (Andy Lau)
Best Actress (Karen Mok)
Best Original Song Ha Chi Bat Gam (Won't do it again)
Music: Peter Kam
Lyrics & performed by: Andy Lau

Unhappy living with the past memory of his mother killing herself, 12 year old Kwong (Howard Sit) is gathering up money through a very weak father father (Felix Wong - Drunken Master II) in order to run away from home. When the torment and hatred towards his stepmother (Karen Mok - So Close, God Of Cookery) eventually gets him thrown out, Kwong stumbles upon a potion a mysterious old man (Feng Xiaogang - director of A World Without Thieves) has come up with. It has an effect of a sewer system plant suddenly growing into a tree overnight and attempting to steal it, Kwong trips and hurts himself, getting the smashed potion into his bloodstream. Waking up the next day, he is suddenly 10 years older (and now played by Andy Lau)...

One of 2005's biggest box-office champions in Hong Kong and being the event of Teddy Chen (Purple Storm, The Accidental Spy, In The Heat Of Summer) making his return to feature film directing (as a lot of his fellow filmmakers did, he contributed a short to the Project 1:99 collection that raised money to battle SARS in 2003). Catching on a wee bit too late on the Hollywood formula of children wishing to be or changing into adults via magic wishing machines and whatnot (yea, I AM talking about Big), it certainly is a fairly intriguing proposition to many years down the line to try on the expected, desired weight that comes with a story like this. Well, in a way it did connect but a large part of audience attending of Wait 'Til You're Older has to do with ageless movie star Andy Lau who proves to be a mainstay in terms of draw once more. The audiences can't be that gullible and therefore depressing though, there surely exists some quality within this production?

Certainly, although it's a little bit shaky. While I don't condemn the past, this Media Asia produced fantasy/drama doesn't promise a lot of weight based on the background of its writers (credits include Bug Me Not! and Tokyo Raiders) and since Wait 'Til You're Older attempts depth, there is a valid reason for concern. Those attentive ones out there should also realize that the title holds the entire meaning of the film but by laying a written foundation that in itself is touching, director Chen manages to contribute fair positives to a film designed for a family- and mainstream audience.

I'm saying that because we get tons of fine, glossy cinematography by Anthony Pun and complexity that equals above average if you're comparing yourself to a Lunar New Year comedy so every arthouse or subtle filmmaking-enthusiast without the ability to switch sensibilities can exit now. Essentially a coming of age tale, albeit a very fast one, Chen takes Cheung Chi Kwong & Susan Chan's written family dynamic to the screen in a clear as day manner. In fact a very dark tale at the beginning stages of the family conflict, Kwong is not a sympathetic kid, something that leads him to assigning easy blame due to his hardships. He's downright mean even and only by growing old can he of course understand where he was wrong in his assessment towards the world and where the adults are coming from.

Preachy and bombastic, Teddy Chen divides his time with felt symbolism and drama while at other times just pouring it on rather thick so that every single member of the audience will know that they got it. Which is all fine but the coat is undeniably so thick that it's a little discerning. Also Kwong's development into a somewhat smart kid in a grown up's shoes seems to contain its share of illogical gaps as we're expected to believe he understands the necessary aspects of everyone and everything quite fast. That happens during certain situations only and at others Chen has switched back to an albeit simple but essential life lesson that is executed well. Considering Chen had some very fine themes and ideas put into the action movie Purple Storm, it's no surprise that he's adept.

With Andy Lau entering the frame, there's no doubt that he's going to command it in a very welcome way. Showing off some fine physical comedy that could fit well at home in a silent movie during his first change into adulthood, Lau performs well balanced as someone whose eyes are opened for the first time now that time is short and someone who is the constant kid down to simple mannerisms. It's a fitting performance for the vehicle and it's impossible to dislike despite any qualms with the direction that trickles onto Lau's performance as well. A more lively make-up job by Mark Garbarino compared to Running On Karma does hide Lau a little bit during the finale but the various stages equals excellent work rarely seen in this area. Felix Wong surprises with a solid turn as the tormented father and showcases admirable depth while Karen Mok gets slightly shifted towards the hysterical acting unfortunately. Cherrie Ying is always welcome due to her beauty but it's a hired performance that doesn't grow very much in her hands and Miss Lee's subplot doesn't feel totally needed in the whole scheme of things.

I'm not at all surprised that Wait 'Til You're Older become such a hit and as a commercial drama vehicle, it hits the notes that makes audiences spread the word and come again, even if it's just for the pleasure of watching the otherwise ageless Andy Lau grow old. The subtle, serious intent concerning the familiar coming of age story with a twist set in stone via the Big influence does get sacrificed more and more as Teddy Chen and company goes for the jugular with their final sentiments and it's a shame because a large percentage of the content holds opportunities for a more complex film waiting to happen. Sad to see courage wasn't allowed to take a leap of freedom into more low-key territory.

The DVD:

Megastar presents the film in an anamorphically encoded 2.29:1 aspect ratio. Softness seems inherited within but can also be due to lighting design so this transfer comes out on top with fine colours and sharpness.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track is crystal clear and very involving, mainly when it comes to music. A Cantonese DTS option as well as the Mandarin dub in Dolby Digital 5.1 is also on offer.

The English subtitles contains no obvious errors and maintains a high standard throughout. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

For such a big hit, Megastar certainly skimps on the special features, at least in the eyes of Westerners that are unable to speak or read Chinese. The standard Making of (running 12 minutes, 31 seconds and Chinese subtitled only) contains at least a little bit of insight for non-Cantonese speakers as make-up artist Mark Garbarino does his interview in English.

Labeled as Unseen Footage, 4 deleted scenes (6 minutes, 54 seconds in total) turn up, this time with no subtitles. Extended scenes only but worth noting is the inclusion of the suicide scene without the intercutting that takes place in the film. Promotional materials comes next, consisting of 2 trailers and 3 TV spots. The excellent teaser labeled here as trailer 1 showing Howard Sit morphing into adult and ultimately old Andy Lau was a fine mood setter for prospective viewers that apparently worked (the longer TV spot is pretty much identical to this so no need to watch all the promos). Cast & Credits only lists the personnel involved, in both Chinese and English.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson