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Fortune Buddies
Fortune Buddies     Fortune Buddies

(left) Johnson Lee, Wong Cho-Lam and Louis Yuen, and (right) Eric Tsang and Pauline Wong.
Chinese: 勁抽福祿壽
Year: 2011
Director: Chung Shu-Kai
Producer: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai

Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Wong Cho-Lam, Louis Yuen Siu-Cheung, Johnson Lee Si-Jit, Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei, Pauline Wong Siu-Fung, Fala Chen, Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee, Samantha Ko Hoi-Ning, Michael Tse Tin-Wah, King Kong, Evergreen Mak Cheung-Ching, Richard Ng Yiu-Hon, Crystal Tin Yui-Lei, Mak Ling-Ling, Lam Suet, Wong Ching, Emily Kwan Bo-Wai, Tin Kai-Man, Macy Chan Mei-Si, Florence Kwok Siu-Wan, Lo Meng, Siu Yam-Yam, Siu Fei, Bat Leung-Gum, Hanjin Tan, Mars, Carlo Ng Ka-Lok, Calvin Choi Yat-Chi, Bob Lam, Oscar Leung Lit-Wai, Jess Sum, Christine Kuo, Ma Choi, Michelle Loo, Ricky Yi Fan-Wai, Bosco Wong Chung-Chak

  The Skinny: Maybe amusing for TVB fans but probably alienating to everyone else. The local references are funny and surprisingly mean, and can entertain despite their literal presentation. However, the canned TV-style drama totally blows. A local film for better or worse.
by Kozo:

With friends like these, who needs enemies? TVB’s Fortune Buddies is the television monopoly’s latest big-screen endeavor, a wannabe Lunar New Year-type comedy filled with big TV names, disconnected gags and forced product placement. The genesis of Fortune Buddies lies in Liza and the Three Gods, a long-running TVB variety show featuring entertainment legend Liza Wang Ming-Chuen and the comedy trio of Louis Yuen Siu-Cheung, Wong Cho-Lam and Johnson Lee Si-Jit. Wang sits out the group’s big screen adventure, letting the “Gods” and also ubiquitous screen hog Eric Tsang do all the work and take all the credit. They certainly do work, but overall is this feature-length TVB commercial worth their effort or the audience’s time?

Maybe – that is, if the viewer simply loves everything that TVB touches. Fortune Buddies is made to order for the TVB die-hard; besides reuniting Yuen, Wong and Lee on the big screen, the film offers appearances from many TVB regulars, including Michael Tse, King Kong, Crystal Tin, Evergreen Mak, Samantha Ko and other people you may not know. References to popular culture are timely and amusing, with shout-outs given to TV minutiae, current events, big-budget blockbusters and more. Non TVBers could be shut out because the references really require an active knowledge of the local TV scene, though there are some gags (including parodies of Infernal Affairs, Raymond Lam's photo scandal, and local do-gooder "Bauhinia Woman") that are known outside TVB fandom. Unfortunately the film makes the habit of explaining every single one of its references in such explicit and literal detail that amusement soon becomes annoyance.

That annoyance could become magnified because outside of the local references there ain’t much going on here. Pals Luk Wong a.k.a. Blue (Wong Cho-Lam), Fook Yuen (Louis Yuen) and Sao Lee (Johnson Lee) spend their time hanging out at the local unemployment center and screwing up at random jobs, including working as extras on a TVB production. Each has their own issues - Fook is a single father with a triad ex-wife (Fala Chen), while Sao is a wayward blueblood hiding from his father (Richard Ng) – but Blue’s problems form the plot. He intends to marry real estate agent Fiona (Fiona Sit) but her father (Eric Tsang) wants a son with more earning potential. He offers to OK the marriage if Blue can buy a flat, and even gives Blue a HK$200,000 stake to start out - though he also [unsuccessfully] tries to steal it back. If nothing else, Fortune Buddies is remarkably accurate in its portrayal of in-laws.

Blue loses the money anyway, so now he has to amass the HK$1 million-plus loan down payment from ground zero. With no luck at real jobs, our three heroes turn to street performing in Mongkok, finding limited success and limited laughs with routines usually parodying TVB properties. However, during one of their street performances, Blue accidentally knocks out an obnoxious Mr. Twister-esque professional wrestler from the United States. The wrestler (who belongs to the “WWV”) wants a rematch, and his Hong Kong agent (Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee) offers Blue and his pals all the money they’ll need if they agree. Of course the guys are seriously outmatched, but because Blue needs to prove himself, he’s willing to die in the ring. His pals object, but they also have personal demons – and by wrestling in the ring, they’ll conquer those demons whether they win or lose. Check that out: actual drama!

However, the drama here is tacked on, barely developed and also mystifying in its overwhelming time wastage. Director Chung Shu-Kai, whose solo career highlight may be last summer’s average Adventure of the King, loads his film with drawn out scenes of people sharing their feelings about themselves and one another. The resulting effect is one of utter alienation. The audience for Fortune Buddies tunes in for silly antics, not soul-baring monologues. Worse, some of the actors try way too hard. Fiona Sit is a solid dramatic actress, but she shouldn't be emoting seriously in a movie like Fortune Buddies. Likewise, nobody wants a six-minute scene where Wong Cho-Lam pledges to be a better boyfriend while fighting to regain his pride. If you're going to employ such hackneyed drama, do it quick and then get on with the silly stuff. What this film really needs is more pratfalls or jokes making fun of Lam Suet’s gut.

Fortune Buddies ends with a wrestling finale highlighted by a final finishing move that should be familiar to people everywhere and not just in Hong Kong. Amazingly, there is stuff here that a global audience can get. Does that redeem Fortune Buddies and recommend it for everyone? Not really. There’s some notable stuff here – like the return of eighties actress Pauline Wong Siu-Fung, and Johnson Lee’s talent with impressions – but the film’s poor pacing, lousy editing, unchecked acting and unearned drama are overwhelming. Really, if one wants to see this sort uncreative canned storytelling there’s already a place they can go: TVB. The script even acknowledges TVB’s cookie-cutter entertainment with some surprisingly brutal honesty, and goes so far as to label its audience as “stupid” for continuing to tune in. Did TVB just throw their fanbase under the bus after asking them pay HK$60 to see a movie they produced? It looks like they did. I guess the lesson behind Fortune Buddies isn’t that it’s bad. The lesson is that it’s my fault that I paid to see it. (Kozo, 2011)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
CN Entertainment Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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Image credits: TVB Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen