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Return of the Cuckoo
Rest on Your Shoulder     Rest on Your Shoulder

(left) Julian Cheung, and (right) Charmaine Sheh in Return of the Cuckoo.
Chinese: 十月初五的月光  
Year: 2015  
Director: Patrick Kong  
  Producer: Allen Chan
  Writer: Patrick Kong

Julian Cheung Chi-Lam, Charmaine Sheh Si-Man, Nancy Sit Ka-Yin, Joe Chen Qiao-En, Michael Tong Man-Lung, Kent Cheng Juk-Si, Samuel Kwok Fung, Helen Ma, Wilfred Lau Ho-Lung, Jacqueline Chong Si-Man, Joyce Cheng Yan-Yi, Susan Tse Suet-Sum, Kiki Sheung Tin-Ngor, Ha Yue, Elena Kong Mei-Yi, Justin Cheung Kin-Seng, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Tin Kai-Man, Cheronna Ng, Jacky Cai, Bella Lam Wing-Tung, Calvin Choi Yat-Chi, Remus Choi Yat-Git, Edmond So Chi-Wai, Stephen Ma Chun-Wai

  The Skinny: Needless sequel to the mega-popular 2000 TVB drama that further effs up its characters’ lives to keep the feels coming. Shockingly, the rampant manufactured melodrama and character-annihilating plot twists from writer-director Patrick Kong (yep, him again) make the whole thing into a chore. Just bad and not horrifying bad, which is a shame because then it might have been hilarious fun.
by Kozo:

Disclosure: I have not seen the 2000 TVB drama Return of the Cuckoo, so whatever opinion I have of its 2015 big-screen sequel also titled Return of the Cuckoo will be based mostly on the film itself and not its status as a follow-up to a beloved media property. Still, I can guess what it feels like to see the film as a longtime fan – and my guess is that I would be pissed off. Filmmakers really have only two methods of sequelizing a completed television drama. They can forget everything that happened at the end of the drama and place the characters in random new situations, which is what happened with the recent Triumph in the Skies film, or they can continue the story by using outlandish plot turns to further eff up the characters’ lives. Either path seems frustrating, so I suppose it makes no difference that writer-director Patrick Kong makes option two his weapon of choice. The audience’s weapon is the fast-forward or stop button. Both should be used liberally.

The TVB drama centered on mute nice guy Man Cho (Julian Cheung), who lived in Macau with his adopted mother Aunt Q (Nancy Sit) and her daughter Kwan-Ho (Charmaine Sheh), who was also Man Cho’s lifelong crush. The drama ended with Man Cho regaining his voice but losing Kwan-Ho to stand-up dude Szeto Lai-Sun (Stephen Ma). After marrying Lai-Sun and emigrating, Kwan-Ho returned with her children to Macau, where she met Man Cho once again for a bittersweet finale. The movie picks up years later, with Man Cho working as a tour guide and driver while spending time with Aunt Q and still trying to get over Kwan-Ho. Man Cho does share a close friendship with super-sweet Kiki (Joe Chen), who bakes him his favorite cookies and is coincidentally mute. All their neighborhood friends, including many returnees from the drama, want Man Cho to settle down with Kiki, but the situation is rocked when Kwan-Ho makes a surprise return to attend Aunt Q’s birthday. Everyone is happy to see Kwan-Ho but her behavior is suspiciously off-kilter.

Here’s why: Lai-Sun and the kids just died in a car accident, and Kwan-Ho is going through a psychotic episode. Man Cho spends the following days shadowing Kwan-Ho as she attempts suicide, mournfully mopes and has a hilarious encounter in a casino with singing trio Grasshopper. Yes, really, on the Grasshopper thing. A cameo by a glitzy male band seems an odd move, but it’s an understandable one since Return of the Cuckoo is pretty much just an opportunistic exploitation of an intellectual property asset . Besides inserting crass cameos, Patrick Kong offs Lai-Sun to facilitate a Man Cho and Kwan-Ho hook-up, and also figuratively screws Lai-Sun by implying that he was a lousy husband before his death. His is not the only ruined character. Kiki is a grade-A sweetheart and earns genuine sympathy until a terrible plot turn unconscionably submarines her personality. To justify its own running time (Two hours!), Return of the Cuckoo pushes rampantly manufactured and painfully manipulative melodrama. It’s not string holding up these puppets – it’s industrial-grade glow-in-the-dark steel cabling.

The actors are OK but the character issues prevent them from being that likable or identifiable. Man Cho is clearly a caring person, especially when it comes to Kwan-Ho, but his clueless leading-on of Kiki is a bad look. Kiki is great until she stops being great, while Kwan-Ho starts cartoonishly unhinged and later blithely sows strife between Man Cho and Kiki. Seriously, do these people have any self-awareness? Granted, if you watched the drama you probably care sooooo much about Man Cho and Kwan-Ho that you don’t care that a new character like Kiki is basically turned into a sociopath. Also, back-stabby relationship tropes are common for Patrick Kong, so he’s used to this stuff. Other characters are less objectionable; Michael Tong returns from the drama as Man Cho’s childhood friend Kam-Shing, who has business problems with his wife Mei-Ling (Jacqueline Chong) and vaguely evil underling Billy (Wilfred Ho). Kam-Shing loses everything then has to claw his way back – a rousing storyline but one that’s underdeveloped and takes a backseat to the love triangle shenanigans.

The film’s final quarter is taken up by another sudden plot twist – and it’s one that’s so overused in melodramas that even describing it here would be tiring. However, when you’re a filmmaker that’s trying to make something last longer than it should you’re likely to use the most tried and true methods – and these methods do work on a certain segment of the moviegoing audience. That audience will like seeing actors they enjoy perform melodrama that they accept, while everyone else will probably roll their eyes. One almost wishes that Return of the Cuckoo were worse than it is because super-bad movies can be enormous fun. This is only so-so bad, which makes it easily skippable. There might be more, however. The film’s final moments clearly set up a sequel, meaning Patrick Kong could be giving us Return of the Cuckoo 2 pretty soon. Other possible titles include Return of the Return of the Cuckoo or Return of the Cuckoo Returns. One Flew Over the Return of the Cuckoo’s Nest? If they name it that, I’ll see it. Otherwise, all bets are off. (Kozo, 12/2015)

  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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