Monday, February 18, 2019

A Lifetime Treasure fails to sufficiently showcase its talents (Film review)

Don't they look like they're having a good time?

A Lifetime Treasure (Hong Kong, 2019)
- Andrew Lam Man Cheung, director and scriptwriter
- Starring: Louis Cheung, Bob Lam, Ivana Wong, Andrew Lam, Richard Ng, Lam Suet, Teddy Robin Kwan, Tien Niu, Sammo Hung, Bruce Leung

Last week, the Hong Kong Film Awards nominations list for this year was announced.  Among its best director nominees were -- deservedly to my mind -- two first-time directors who also were nominated in the best scriptwriter as well as best new director categories.  That same week, I viewed a Chinese New Year movie helmed by a debutant helmer.  But if A Lifetime Treasure's Andrew Lam follows in the footsteps of Still Human's Oliver Chan Siu Kuen and Men on the Dragon's Sunny Chan and gets nominated next year in even one of those awards categories, it'll be a sign that 2019 would have been a thoroughly terrible year for Hong Kong cinema!

Put another way: After viewing this mess of a movie, I would be perfectly happy if Andrew Lam never were to script or direct another film again.  And whatever enjoyment I got from viewing this cinematic work whose apparently sincere message about it being good to care for, and not under-value the contributions of, the elderly got inadvertently sabotaged by its muddled execution I'll largely credit to its capable but often mis-used cast, a number of whom are respected veteran industry doyens who really deserved better (along with this effort's audience).

When you look at A Lifetime Treasure's poster, the fact of Sammo Hung (who, more than incidentally, is scheduled to be this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival's filmmaker in focus), Richard Ng, Tien Niu, Teddy Robin Kwan and Bruce Leung being in its foreground would make you think that theirs would be the key characters in this Chinese New Year comedy.  As it turned out though, this quintet who play the sole residents of a nursing home for the elderly actually have less screentime and chances to shine than the five other individuals standing behind them.

With the exception of Andrew Lam (who appears on screen as the caring but eccentric owner of the nursing home), that younger quintet actually manage to do good work -- and get a few laughs -- with the material they were given.  Ivana Wong is perkily lovable as the facility's sole nurse.  Louis Cheung and Bob Lam manage to inject humanity into their characters: that of two low-level lackeys sent by a kooky gangster (portrayed by Lam Suet) to sabotage things there to the point where control of it will be lost to him.  And Lam Suet chews the scene with obvious relish in a bigger role accorded to him than he usually gets to play in Milkyway Image productions, be they crime dramas or romantic comedies.

The problem lies though in the film being filled with childish attempts at humor that were old even by the 1990s, if not the 1980s, and seeming conceived for people with low IQs (and very possibly by people whose EQ and IQs are both not at all that high a level).  Alternatively put: A Lifetime Treasure is the kind of movie whose high point may well be the scenes involving several of its main characters taking part in the filming of a cheap movie featuring a scantily-clad starlet and extras told to pretend to be zombies who go attack her enmasse when she's bathing out in the open in an expensive bathtub.  As for its low points: well, there are too many to list; and there's the rub!

Suffice to state that, among other things, I really didn't appreciate seeing Sammo Hung playing an idiot for much of the movie (and yes, I know he's done it in other films -- but that makes this even worse!) and Bruce Leung play a mute for an even greater portion of A Lifetime Treasure; and in fact, I found it downright unbecoming and stupidly wasteful of these two Hong Kong cinema legends' talents.  I also didn't like that there are cheap attempts at visual gags involving people wearing uniforms clearly ripped off from Star Trek for no reason other than they're recognizable pop culture items and icky ones where people throwing up or losing control of their bodily functions thrown in to try to increase the laughter quotient.

So, while it was nice to see screen legends -- including a couple who haven't appeared on a big screen for several years -- gracing a cinematic offering again, I really wish that it had been in a better movie.  Similarly, while the likes of Louis Cheung, Bob Lam and Lam Suet may lack movie star looks, I think they actually did show in A Lifetime Treasure that they too are talents deserving of better platforms -- and maybe to be treasured too!    

My rating for this film: 5.0

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