Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (Hong Kong, 2011)
Following in the footsteps of the super hero meta-commentary film barrage in 2010 that included titles such as The Incredibles (no relation), Super, and Kick Ass, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible is a film that, tongue firmly in cheek, lets us spy into the everyday and private lives of our otherwise secretive caped crusaders.
B.B. King once crooned, “The thrill is gone,” a lyric that sums up Mr. and Mrs. Incredible’s problem. The Incredibles (or “The Flints” as they are called throughout most of the film; the two are only called The Incredibles once) are the laser-eyed Gazer Warrior (Louis Koo) and the fragrantly-empowered Aroma Woman (Sandra Ng), a pair of superheroes who, after having grown tired of capturing villains and rescuing kittens from trees, retire to a life of normalcy in a modest Chinese village, far away from the crime of the big city. In their new life, Mr. Flint becomes head of the local guard, a job that’s markedly slow in the backwater town, while Mrs. Flint has her own little teahouse. “We are normal people living ordinary lives,” becomes an everyday mantra for the couple, who strive to both keep their identities secret and stay out of the limelight. However, evil never sleeps, let alone retires, so the two are thrust back into action by a villain who travels into the town with a martial arts tournament.
Most of the comedy in this Vincent Kok (Dragon Reloaded, My Lucky Star) penned and directed film is derived from The Flints facing some very human inevitabilities: the nostalgia for youth and desire for a stable, peaceful middle age life. Mr. Flint, while resigned to his guard position, still revels in the glories of the past. This is spurred by a young female acolyte in the martial arts troop whose lifelong admiration for Mr. Flint as Gazer Warrior creates a love triangle that threatens the Flints’ relationship. Mrs. Flint, on the other hand, is looking squarely at the future and hopes to start a family. However, when it’s discovered that there are possible infertility issues between the two that can only be cured by getting their pulses racing, the race is on (no pun intended) to figure out how to inject some excitement into their relationship. Of course, the couple’s mistaken and intentional use of their super powers are a source of humor as well. In one scene, Mrs. Flint intentionally tricks a realtor into discounting a home by using her super strength to destroy an otherwise sturdy chimney.
This all may sound like light humor and it is. The film’s gags could easily fit in a sit-com or family-oriented animated film (ahem). What’s more, the comedy is broad enough for Western audiences, and without being overly crude or demeaning – two problems that Hong Kong comedy tends to suffer from. Ng and Koo, who both starred in Kok’s All’s Well Ends Well 2009, are both charismatic and work well with the script and each other and, ultimately, are the stars of the show. There is an underlying “wink wink, nudge nudge” feel in their performances, but that’s all in the fun and spirit of the film. Ng as Mrs. Flint is both a loveable and loving character whose issues with fertility are kind of laughable considering the amount of energy that undoubtedly went into her performance. Koo’s Mr. Flint is a little more problematic. He’s a likeable oaf who always has his heart in the right place, even when his head isn’t, but Koo himself looks a little too young for the role with the little bristly mustache he wears throughout the film, real or not, providing an unintentional laugh and looking very much a cheap disguise that a young boy would wear to try to get into a porno theater (not that I’d know).
This is all par for the course for Kok, a Hong Kong actor/writer/director/producer Jack of All Trades who has a knack for airy romantic-comedy with name leads: Forbidden City Cop (1996) paired Stephen Chow (who also co-directed) with Carina Lau, Gorgeous (1999) had Jackie Chan with Shu Qi, and Marry a Rich Man (2002), Sammie Cheng and Richie Ren. As with those films, Kok tends to focus too much on the relationship between the leads at the cost of a strong story. This issues plays itself out during the action sequences of the story. Contrast this finale with a much more lavish battle set piece earlier in the film in which The Flints (as their superhero counterparts) fight a pack of warriors who can morph into creatures based on the fictional martial art they practice – the “toad” fighter huddles on the floor and his chin wells up just like a toad’s, the “scorpion” fighter skitters around on the floor with one leg formed up like a scorpion tail ready to strike, etc. This scene has a lot of promise since it introduces the possibility of a world with an interesting array of villains. However, the final battle scene, while a decent effects piece, feels tacked on as an afterthought. Ultimately, this is the film’s biggest problem: audiences looking for a solid Hong Kong-action spectacle may feel as if they are watching an alternative-reality episode of Dharma and Greg instead, an experience that may feel a little less than incredible.
Mr. and Mrs. Incredible screens Friday, September 23rd at 9:45 PM and Sunday, September 25th at 2:00 PM at the New People Cinema as part of the San Francisco Film Society’s inaugural Hong Kong Cinema series. For more information and tickets, click here.