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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

The Not-So Magic Gourd

Magic Gourd

Based on the print advertising for the movie which featured a computer-animated gourd and a frog, I expected John Chu and Frankie Chung’s 2007 film, The Magic Gourd, to be an all-CGI affair. It is not. It’s basically Who Framed Roger Rabbit with CGI — at least in the sense that real-live human beings interact with animated characters or, in this case, computer generated ones.

Based on a popular children’s novel by Tianyi, the movie centers on Wang Bo (Zhu Qilong), a lazy daydreamer who’s apparently the worst student in school. As luck would have it, he encounters the titular Magic Gourd (”Hulu” to his pals & voiced by Chen Peisi), a walking, talking Aladdin’s lamp with no limitation on the number of wishes he can grant. Wang Bo makes his wish, but gets a lot more than he bargained for in the process.

Basically, the movie is all about how kids should work hard to achieve their dreams. That, in itself, is a pretty good life lesson, although the movie is none too subtle about the ultimate “moral to the story.” What’s pretty sucky about The Magic Gourd, however, is fact that Wang Bo becomes an increasingly irritating little bastard as the movie goes on. Sure, that’s part of the point — the boy needs to get his comeuppance so he can finally learn valuable life lessons, but the problem is that the far more sympathetic Magic Gourd is completely given the short shrift in the later parts of the film.

Not to give away the story, but Wang Bo basically blames the gourd for all his problems and abandons him, when in truth, it’s his selfish horse’s ass behavior that’s the root cause. Sure, he goes on to “work hard” to satisfy the character arc and there’s a resolution with the gourd, but it just seems to play out all in such a wrongheaded manner. It’s not so much that Wang Bo learned to work hard and do things for himself because it’s the “right thing” to do, but instead simply because when the gourd helps him, things don’t seem to work out the way he wants. He doesn’t really realize that he’s being selfish — he just thinks if he wants things done right, he has to do it himself. That is a very different “lesson,” methinks.

On the bright side, Centro Digital’s CGI work  is great and there are a lot of funny little touches by the animators that kept me interested in the movie. To be perfectly honest, I was close to falling asleep several times throughout the film.

In sum, I suppose kids will like it; it’s a cute enough movie. If it helps any, my mom liked it for the CGI and the scenery. I was somewhere between “occasionally amused” and “eh.”

For a more detailed look at the film, head on over to LoveHKFilm.com to read Kevin’s review of the Cantonese dub of the film. His take can be found here. Also, the film has since been released in the United States as The Secret of the Magic Gourd with the standard Mandarin track and an English dubbed version starring High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu as the Gourd. Apparently, the dubbing is atrocious, but the DVD features a behind the scenes making of featurette in Chinese with English subtitles. (2007/2011)

Grade: C+

 

 

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