A Chinese Odyssey (DVD)
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The famous Chinese novel Xi You Ji (also known as Journey to the West) was the basis for Hong Kong filmmaker Jeff Lau's flamboyant and rewarding two-part fantasy about the introduction of Buddhism to China. The film, gorgeous as it is, is primarily a parody of its source material, starring comedian Stephen Chiau as both Sun the Monkey King and his later incarnation, Joker. The story begins as the Goddess of Happiness banishes the Longevity Monk (Law Kar-ying) and his followers from Heaven because the Monkey King tried to eat the Monk and gain immortality. They are all sentenced to reincarnation as mortal humans, and the Monkey King becomes Joker 500 years later. Joker doesn't know that he was once the Monkey King, and is preoccupied by his romances with two immortal females, Pak Jing-jing (Karen Mok) and the 30th Madam (Yammie Nam). Jing-jing had been rejected by the Monkey King centuries before, but falls for Joker only to get poisoned by her sister, who is extremely jealous and wants him for herself. Aware that Jing-jing may soon die, Joker uses the Pandora's Box to travel back in time, but ends up lost in the world of 500 years earlier. Ng Man-tat co-stars with director Lau (as "the Grapes") and Athena Chu Yan. The same year's A Chinese Odyssey, Part Two -- Cinderella continues the story. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi