The first Hong Kong movie I viewed in the
new year of the dragon! :)
Table for Six 2 (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2024)
- Sunny Chan, director and scriptwriter
- Starring: Stephy Tang, Louis Cheung Kai Chung, Ivana Wong, Lin Min Chen, Peter Chan Charm-man
One of my favourite Lunar New Year traditions here in Hong Kong involves going to the cinema to view Chinese New Year movies with a receptive audience in the mood for laughs aplenty. With three such cinematic offerings to choose from this new year of the dragon, I opted to first view the follow-up film to Table for Six, the smash hit family dramedy that originally had been scheduled to be a Chinese New Year 2022 offering, only to get released months later thanks to Covid and the Hong Kong government's then super strict pandemic restrictions including the shutting down of cinemas for a not inconsiderable period of time.
Going into the screening of Table for Six 2, I knew that the first film's lead actor, Dayo Wong, would not be in this new movie which loosely revolves around three weddings and members of the family that had been at the heart of the first Table for Six now being in the wedding planning business. But with the rest of the original ensemble being around for it and advance publicity for the festive offering showing that it would boast lots of cameo appearances by the likes of Jennifer Yu, Helena Law Lan, Woo Fung and Tse Kwan-ho, I figured that it would not lack for acting prowess and star power. And so it proved.
Disappointingly though, despite Table For Six 2 having the same director-scriptwriter (Sunny Chan) as that which is currently third on the all time Hong Kong box office chart for local releases (having ended up amassing a whopping HK$77.3 million!), there was a notable drop off in overall quality; one that comes from the main characters feeling more one-note and/or their eccentric tics often being overly exaggerated this time around, despite the better efforts of those who play them. For example, Ivana Wong's Josephine sadly spends too much of her time onscreen this time around fuming (even more so than cooking); so much so that it's harder this time around to see why Lung (played by Peter Chan Charn-man) would care for and love her enough to get married to her.
Then there's Meow (essayed by Taiwanese actress Lim Min Chen), who appears for much of the movie to have just two modes: cutesy; and alcoholic. Though, as it turns out, she does end up having a great dramatic scene that may well be the heart of this movie which, like with the first Table for Six, is best when the mood gets more serious and reflective. Too bad then that much of it spent trying to be manically laugh-a-minute (or, it can feel more like, every 10 seconds or so; with one-liners, punch lines and visual gags being thrown out at a crazily fast pace, seemingly in the hope that at least some will stick)!
With Dayo Wong's eldest brother Steve being out of the picture (bar for verbal references aplenty to the character, including his absence being explained away by his having decided to go to Africa), it looks to have fallen on middle brother Bernard (portrayed by Louis Cheung) to anchor the family, and film. And he does have his moments; with standouts including a musical comedy sequence involving the Leslie Cheung (no relation)'s hit song Monica. He also gets to interact with his late mother (essayed again by Fish Liew) in scenes that will bring to mind those involving her and Steve in the first film.
Still, it might be fifth returning star, Stephy Tang (playing Monica), who is given the most opportunities to steal the scene and shine in the film. Nonetheless, with my having viewed her, Louis Cheung, Ivana Wong and Peter Chan Charm-man in other, more serious and/or substantive roles in other movies, I really do reckon that she and all her co-stars deserve better material to work with than what they were given in Table for Six 2.
All in all, I would have appreciated a less scattershot approach to trying to get laughs. I also wish the movie's over-the-top tone, flimsy plot involving weddings being viewed primarily as a commercial enterprise rather than a serious affair and often nonsensical subplots, didn't threaten to make my head spin from too many lies being told and piling on top of one another. And truly, it's quite the miracle that Table for Six 2 managed to ultimately come together and wrap as well as it eventually did.
Still, less might have been more, actually. At the very least, a more minimalist approach would have reduced the movie's 133 minute long screen time. Nonetheless, I did get some enjoyment out of viewing Table for Six 2 -- even while being fully aware that it's no cinematic classic -- and on the first day of the new year of the dragon too. Also, it even had a couple of scenes that put lumps in my throat and had my eyes watering in a way that told me that, amidst much silliness, I had been emotionally impacted after all.
My rating for the film: 6.5