Chinese New Year is the traditional time for farcical rom-coms in the Asian markets, as is evidenced by the seemingly annual All’s Well That Ends Well (最強囍事) series that has been running since 1992. While never known for being subtle, their over-the-top stylings have been keeping audiences pleased en masse for decades and they show no sign of stopping. One of this year’s entries is Mr. & Mrs. Incredible (神奇俠侶) shifts the gaze from straight-up crazy rom-com and taking notes from the plethora of US superhero movies that flood our markets every year. The results may be something wholly unique to mainstream western audiences.
In ancient China, the super-powered heroes known as the laser-sighted Gazer Warrior (Louis Koo, Election) and the sweet-smelling Aroma Woman (Sandra Ng Kwan Yue, Golden Chicken) have retired from public life to their rather more domestic personas of Huan and Red respectively. However, after a decade away from the excitement, they have begun to tire of the quiet life. Adventure finds them when a martial arts ranking tournament rolls into town, and both begin to feel a rush of blood. However, as Red increasingly wants to settle down and have a family, will Huan’s urges to return to the ‘awesome’ fighting days win out?
Mr. & Mrs. Incredible is a nonsensical farce that jumps from one moment to the next, with no discernible regard for a cohesive narrative, and that is just one of its many charms. Throwing reality out the window, director Vincent Kok (perhaps best known in the west for Shaolin Soccer) and his co-writer Min Hun Fung (the mad genius behind Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and CJ7) aim for the kind of hyper-real comic-book look that US audiences have only recently been exposed to through Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. This is incredibly liberating for an audience that has increasingly been asked to treat superheroes in reverential tones. While comics often deal with weight issues in ways that other mediums can never dream of, one must never forget that the genre (and any genre for that matter) must be entertaining first and foremost. On this level, Kok succeeds brilliantly, creating a world that is not quite ancient China but not really modern-day either. Through extensive use of CGI and other special effects, it exists in its own film reality: a time that never existed, but at the same time is wholly appropriate to the high concept of Mr. & Mrs. Incredible.
Comedy veterans Sandra Ng and Louis Koo provide more than ample expressiveness to a script that isn’t afraid to give a bit of domestic love to the married couple, and while those seeking wall-to-wall action may wish to pop out to the candy bar around the midway point, it does give us a deeper connection to the characters as we build our way up to the inevitable action conclusion. It’s a whopper of a cataclysm too, with special effects that can stand proud next to the seven-figure budgets of their Hollywood cousins. When the filmmakers do cut corners on effects, it is usually a deliberate choice for comic effect. After all, it is a film that is all in good fun, and despite some of the narrative shortcomings that may put off more discerning audiences, there is a joy to proceedings that is an all too rare treat these days.
The Reel Bits: An incredibly silly superhero parody that will hit all the right marks for fans of the genre, but may test the tolerance levels of the initiated. Heavy on both the special effects and the slapstick, it put the ‘comic’ back into ‘comic book heroes’.
Mr. & Mrs. Incredible has been in limited release since 3 February, 2011 from Incubate.
If you care about seeing Asian cinema in Australia on the big screen, we encourage you to go out and support the regular screenings at selected Event Cinemas and the regular Asian Cinema screenings at Hoyts Cinemas. Increasingly they are day-and-date with their Chinese release, so there are no excuses for that ‘other method’ of acquiring them.