Part One: Pandora's Box


Part Two: Cinderella

A Chinese Odyssey

Year of release: 1995

Genre: wuxia

Director: Jeff Lau

Action director: Ching Siu-Tung

Stars: Stephen Chow, Yammie Nam, Karen Mok, Athena Chu, Jeff Lau, Ng Man-Tat, Lau Kar-Ying

Rated II for violence and crude humor



Like Quentin Tarantino's latest Kill Bill, A Chinese Odyssey was originally shot as a three-hour movie, but was divided into two seperate films when the studio thought the market wasn't right for a longer work. So for all intents and purposes of this review, I will be treating the two films (subtitled Pandora's Box and Cinderella) as a single entity. Yes, I know I must be violating some rule of film criticism (something which, frankly, this site barely pays attention as it stands now), but A Chinese Odyssey is meant to viewed (and admittedly much easier to be reviewed) as one movie.

The films are an adapation of a popular novel named "Journey to the West". Stephen Chow plays a thief named Joker whose relative peace is shattered when two mysterious women (Yammie Nam and Karen Mok) show up at his hideout. It turns out that Joker is the reincarnation of a creature known as the Monkey King. The King's mentor, Invincible Monk (Law Kar-Ying) is coming to find Joker so he can once again become the Monkey King, and a motley crew soon shows up to try and take the Invincible Monk, who can grant whoever eats his flesh immortality.

That plot synopsis really only covers the first part of the first movie. As you might expect for a film that runs for over three hours, A Chinese Odyssey has a very complicated plot, even moreso than your average wuxia movie. When you factor in Stephen Chow's "nonsense comedy", things get a bit weird to say the least. There were a few times where I was scratching my head, wondering what the hell was exactly going on, especially during bits like the part where Invincible Monk starts singing golden oldies. But Stephen Chow's charisma and humor keep things going, and Ching Siu-Tung's action sequences are exciting enough that the viewer can forgive some of the shortcomings presented by the story itself.

Overall, though, A Chinese Odyssey didn't fully click for me. Perhaps it was due to the low budget (there are only four or five sets used in both movies -- it just lacks that "epic" feel a film like this should have), sometimes haphazard and uneven story development (the movie sometimes tries too hard to interject "real" drama into the proceedings) or a plot that is a bit confusing in places, made worse by the badly-translated subtitled present on the DVDs. Despite these problems, A Chinese Odyssey is still a pretty fun film that's worth a look if you're into Stephen Chow's body of work.

RATING: 6.75



DVD Information

Company: Mei Ah (catalog numbers 010, 011)

Format: widescreen

Sound: Dolby 2.0

Subtitles: Chinese/English (burned-in)

Extras: none

Both discs offer the same extremely bare-bones presentation, not even having menu screens. The picture and sound are transferred compentently enough, but the white-on-white subtitles are hard to read in parts and have fairly poor translation, which makes matters a bit hard to follow.

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