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King of Comedy (1999)

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-Stephen Chow
-Cecilia Cheung
-Karen Mok


Stephen Chow plays Wan Tin-sau, an aspiring actor who is not having the best of luck breaking into the business. Determined to keep trying and very dedicated to his art, he takes any bit parts he can get and will teach acting to just about anyone that would like to learn from him. He meets Piu-Piu, a club girl, when she and her co-workers come for acting lessons to learn how to play up to their male customers better. While she ridicules him at first, she realizes that his techniques do work and comes for more acting lessons. The two soon fall for each other, but with her profession and he seeming unable to go anywhere in his business, they cannot follow fully through on their relationship. The film follows Wan Tin-sau's quest to become a successful actor as well as the relationship between Tin-sau and Piu-Piu.


King of Comedy is (surprise!) a comedy movie, no doubt. Yet, it strikes deep within the viewer to the extent that few other comedies, or romantic comedies, do. Where many comedies have the viewer remembering all the funny moments when the movie is done, King of Comedy also has the viewer remembering some of the most touching moments. This is the true soul of the film. It is a touching, mature comedy that will have you rolling in laughter while making you fall in love with the characters.

King of Comedy has two main plots to entertain the viewer. First, there is the story of Tin-sau's quest to become a successful actor. This is presented well right from the beginning of the film. Stephen Chow conveys the eagerness of the character very well, with just the right comedic touch. The scenes where he brings theoretical overkill to bit parts best convey this mix. This story, and the premise behind which the entire film rests, is surprisingly engaging. The film does a great job of showing the eagerness of Tin-sau, making the viewer want him to succeed, and mixing lots of comedic antics into the mix. When he gets a big break, the viewer can't help but think "YES!" in happiness for Chow's character. That is the big sign that a movie has engaged the viewer.

The second main plot is the romantic relationship between Tin-sau and Piu-Piu. Again, the film is convincing with its portrayal of this story. The first one-on-one acting lesson between the two sets up the relationship exceptionally. To see the looks he gives when pulling up her chin or hugging her makes it no wonder that he can fall for her. Even when the film goes on to parts focusing on Tin-sau's acting career, viewers can't help but wonder if she's still in his thoughts. Regardless of whether that is intentional, it goes a long way to show how well the relationship between the two characters is set up. It also allows the romantic relationship to co-exist with the story of Tin-sau's career in perfect harmony.

The comedy in the film is top-notch, with such silly antics but a very mature feel. Comedy can often invoke a smile or snicker, but only the best get people laughing out loud and actually shouting things at the screen. King of Comedy does just that. Quite slapstick-ish in many ways, the comedy never comes off as stupid or corny. There is also the way is which the action is brought into the film - through parody. There are some outrageous action scenes, all part of films that Tin-Sau is acting in, that manage to poke good-humored fun at some action movie classics. The comedy also lays low when necessary, allowing some of the drama to come out at the right times without anything to break the mood - an expected, but not always fulfilled trait in comedic dramas.

This film is one of the best romantic comedies to come out in a long time. To nail this down so specifically as a romantic comedy, though, does little justice to the dual plotline of the film that works so well. Its certainly much more mature than most romantic comedies (continuing to use the term for lack of a better phrase), managing to pack more emotions and laughs into its package than others. Performances are great all-around, including newcomer Cecilia Cheung, who I look forward to hopefully seeing in more films. Anyone remotely interested in a film of this type should check this out immediately and even those who lean towards the action side of things are encouraged to give this film a shot. If you thought that romantic comedies could never be totally fulfilling, this is a film to change your mind.


-Stephen Chow, Lik-Chi Lee


-Original Cantonese language.