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Love Undercover 3

(left) The gang protects Fiona Sit, and (right) Takuya Suzuki and Fiona Sit
Chinese: 新紮師妹3
Year: 2006  
Director: Joe Ma Wai-Ho  
Cast: Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei, Takuya Suzuki, Hui Siu-Hung, Sammy, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Fire Lee, Chow Ka-Sing, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Donald Tong Kim-Hong, Yuen King-Tan, Chow Chung, Lai Yiu-Cheung, Jun Nei, Sasha Hou Sa-Sa, Bonnie Xian, Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Love Undercover 3 demolishes Joe Ma's latest franchise. The film possesses some funny nonsense comedy, but the nonexistent story and one-dimensional lead performance from Fiona Sit make this a disappointing experience. Is Joe Ma dead?
by Kozo:

Four years ago, Miriam Yeung shot to box-office stardom with the original Love Undercover, and now it's Fiona Sit's turn. The charming breakout star of last year's 2 Young gets her shot at box-office superstardom with Love Undercover 3. Director Joe Ma, who handled the original and its sequel, returns to helm this installment, which places series regulars Fong (Miriam Yeung) and Man (Daniel Wu) in Europe to watch the World Cup. Fong's fake father, Chung (Hui Siu-Hung) is struggling with Man's father (Chow Chung) over visitation rights to Fong's child. Basically, the child is not really Chung's grandchild, so he should stop visiting someone else's grandkid and go get his own. This plot setup is detailed in an over-the-top opening sequence where Chung and his team (consisting of Sammy, Raymond Wong, Lee Ka-Wing and Chow Ka-Sing) unsuccessfully attempt to visit the tyke, after which they get into an auto accident, which - in the real world - would be a just end for these useless policemen.

However, they live. The five-man squad is saved from the wreckage by sprightly delivery girl Fan Shi-Wao (Fiona Sit), whose desire to help is only overshadowed by her earnest desire to make money. The gang takes an immediate shine to her, and presto: they have their new girl. The group immediately enrolls Fan into the police academy, where they dote on her and cheat to make sure she graduates. Fan does, and immediately becomes a part of their team, which is widely known for its complete lack of effort and general uselessness. Purpose arrives when Japanese Interpol officer Suzuki (the wooden Takuya Suzuki) shows up to whip the force into shape. Fan is immediately smitten by the handsome, blank Suzuki. Meanwhile, the rest of the guys want to fool him because he seems like such an uptight stick-in-the-mud. There are other plotlines too, involving disenchanted otaku Vito (Donald Tong), who gets annoyed at the world and forms a criminal ring of models to exact his silly revenge, and Fan's future as a police officer, which is supposed to be promising if not for her allegiance to Chung's crappy police team.

Still, why anyone thinks Fan's police career is filled with promise is a complete and utter mystery, because she doesn't demonstrate anything resembling actual law enforcement skill. Then again, logic is hard to come by in the world of Love Undercover 3 because few of the characters or situations make any sense. The first Love Undercover film actually had a story, and a variety of wacky and straight characters to play with. The second film also had a story, but it added extra subplots and jettisoned the straight characters, leading to a sometimes funny, but overall nonsensical film. This third film follows this pattern exceptionally well; now, there are wacky subplots, wacky characters, and NO STORY. Love Undercover 3 makes zero sense from the get-go, and presents characters and situations that don't seem to connect. Characters come and go, and new plotlines appear simply to introduce gags. Mileage may vary here, as many of the jokes rely on wordplay or Hong Kong-specific references that international audiences may not necessarily get. Still, even with complete knowledge of what's happening, it's not all giggles and guffaws. Some of the gags can amuse, while others stretch on for an unfunny eternity. If the laughs in Love Undercover 3 were measured like batting averages, we'd say that the filmmakers bat close to .350. However, that average is only good in baseball; in a comedy, it's not that hot.

But surprisingly, the main problem with Love Undercover 3 may not be the funny factor. No, the big shocker is how uninteresting and one-dimensional Fiona Sit is in the lead role. As Fan Shi-Wao, Sit displays a lovable sweetness that goes from likable to finally uninteresting and even tiresome. Unlike Sit's natural, realistic role in 2 Young, Fan Shi-Wao is all movie-made artifice; she's the girl-next-door sweetheart, or the "jade girl" described in the film's Chinese title. Sit gets the sweetheart part right, but she fails at conveying anything else besides occasional dissatisfaction. She never gets angry or upset, and her shows of sweetness sometimes border on nauseating. The blame isn't entirely Sit's; had the writers written a more complete role, then maybe we wouldn't be knocking her performance. The original Love Undercover films got a ton of mileage out of Miriam Yeung's mouthy insubordination, and even though it's debatable whether Fong Lai-Keun had any character arc, she showed enough variation to make her interesting. Fan Chi-Wao has almost no variation, and even seems to take a back seat for huge portions of time to her wacky male protectors. Those paying to see Hui Siu-Hung, Sammy, and Raymond Wong act silly will get their money's worth, but those expecting Fiona Sit to carry the film will likely be unsatisfied.

That said, the supporting players do take a large burden off Fiona Sit by carrying many of the funny parts - and they do it well enough that Love Undercover 3 can sometimes suffice as a brainless time-killer. Though many of the jokes fall flat, there are some surprising ones here or there that can amuse. Hui Siu-Hung is always funny as Chung Sir, and even Sammy earns a few decent laughs. Those who look upon Hong Kong Cinema as throwaway crap may forgive Love Undercover 3 as a typical product of the industry, not unlike one of Wong Jing's many quickie comedies. Love Undercover 3 seems to fit that definition, but given the fact that the original actually seemed better than a crappy Wong Jing also-ran, Love Undercover 3 can only be viewed as a disappointment. Since his strong first features over ten years ago, Joe Ma's work has only become more inconsistent and uninspired. But as depressing as it is to see Joe Ma flounder, it's even worse watching Fiona Sit fail to impress. Sit showed plenty of promise with 2 Young, and even her turn in the middling Embrace Your Shadow (also directed by Joe Ma) was better than average work. For the promising Sit, Love Undercover 3 is a high-profile misstep. The girl deserves better than this. We deserve better, too. (Kozo 2006)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

images courtesy of Mei Ah Entertainment

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