King of Comedy:””My life is cheaper than ants.”

Year: 1999
Directed by Stephen Chow and Lee Lik-Chi
Produced by Stephen Shin Gei-Yin
Written by Tsang Kan-Cheung, Stephen Chow,Erica Li Man,Cheng Man-Fai,Steven Fung Min-Hang, and Leung Ka-Kit
Cast: Stephen Chow, Karen Mok, Cecilia Cheung, Ng Man Tat, Lam Tsz-sin,
Tin Kai-man, Cheng Man-Fai, Steven Fung Min-Hang ,Lee Siu-Kei, Baat Leung-Gam, Dai Lung and Jackie Chan

Wan Tin-sau, is a hard-working actor that’s looking for his big break but his roles are limited to extras. When chances arise for him to make it big, an ugly truth about the industry rears its head.

In Stephen Chow’s career, the 90s represents his rise to stardom. So, King of Comedy released at the very tail of the 90s represents a self-reflective look into his rise to stardom. It is both an affectionate spoof of the showbiz in Hong Kong and partly a biopic.

Stephen Chow’s trademark humor is well known for its outlandish peculiarity. The features of it are the following, crudeness, brutal honesty, self-deprecating humor, slapstick, puns, deadpan expressions, absurd breaks in logic, and sheer randomness. These features are hardly unique but Chow gave it a very distinctive Cantonese flavor. His humor is very rooted in the popular culture and, the culture in general of Hong Kong. However, that very local flavor of Chow’s humor could leave foreigners scratching their heads.

Although his humor is enjoyable, his films tend to lack emotional stakes since the absurd humor renders any sort of seriousness kind of moot. Of course, Stephen Chow’s repertoire had a few exceptions here and there to that, even prior to King of Comedy. But, King of Comedy is the first clear endeavor of his, to be heartfelt while retaining his signature comedy. Stephen Chow playing an affectionate caricature of himself is an actor who gets no respect. His passion for acting is more of a nuisance to those around him than actually being useful to his struggling career.Wan Tin-sau’s struggle to get his foot in the door besides being an excuse for some comedic hi-jinks has a satirical and intimate insight. It’s an amusing display of the struggles of an actor. The little respect that the industry has for extras is a reminder of the cutthroat nature of the entire industry. One could easily call King of Comedy a mean-spirited story, but, Wan Tin-sau’s perseverance is actually inspiring. In essence, King of Comedy is a thinly veiled satire that celebrates the toils of being an actor in an industry that cares little for actors that aren’t A-list. Chow, in a great performance, balances his comedic side and serious side. In King of Comedy, there is much more consistency between these two sides of Stephen Chow.

Cecilia Cheung makes her onscreen debut in a strong performance as the bratty but emotionally vulnerable, Lau Piu-piu. Her romance with Chow’s character is somewhat touching. It really never justified its itself. And ends ups, pretty much being a forced subplot that the King of Comedy does not need. Most of all, it slightly undercuts Chow being an underdog.

King of Comedy fizzles itself out by the last act. The third act is unable to find a proper footing to give any sort of rightful closure. Perhaps, it was a clash of intentions. Stephen wanted a tragicomedy while the studio demanded a feel-good comedy to capitalize on the Lunar New Year.

King of Comedy is Stephen Chow’s heartfelt comedy that is beautifully sentimental and satirical.

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