Himalaya Singh
Hong Kong 2005
Directed by Wai Ka-Fai.


Before seeing HIMALAYA SINGH, all I heard about was how awful Lau Ching-Wan was. After seeing the movie myself, I discover there is a lot more to the movie, but all of it, ALL OF IT, is overshadowed by the bewildering decision made by -- who? Lau Ching-Wan? The director, Wai Ka-Fai? The scriptwriter, ? -- to have Lau Ching-Wan impersonate British comedian Rowan Atkinson. More specifically, to impersonate Rowan Atkinson's character MR. BEAN. And he does. I can't even say if it's a good impersonation or a bad. All I do and marvel and the pointlessness of it all, and the awful drudgery of actually watching it take place. I think it would be easier to watch Lau Ching-Wan eating poop than to see him do his Mr. Bean impersonation.

But this review isn't exclusively to lament "Sean" Lau's terrible acting choices. But, it will take up a considerable portion. Perhaps he let the positive reviews of FANTASIA go to his head? In that movie, he impersonated the famous cantonese cinema comedian Michael Hui, and he did it precisely. After impersonating Michael Hui, I suppose everyone got together to have a brainstorming session to see what comedian he could impersonate next, and Rowan Atkinson, somehow, floated to the top of the list. It's too bad, really -- the only choice I can think of that could be worse would be if Sean tried impersonating Chris Tucker.

Ooh, I'm almost sorry I wrote that, they might use the idea in their next Chinese New Year comedy.

The title character, Himalaya Singh, is the son of a yoga expert, played by Ronald Cheung (who also plays his own father and mother). He comes down from the Himalayas to marry "India Beauty" (Gauri S. Kamik) in a contest but runs into resentful second fiddle Tally (Cherrie Ying) first. She falls for him, but he only knows he must marry India Beauty. His father also told him to do some wicked things too, before he gets married, so he can learn what that's all about. Tally seizes on that idea and decides if she can't marry him, she'll make him the most despicable, gambling, drunken, wife-abusing husband imaginable as revenge. So she and her uncles (Shing Fui-On and Lee Siu-Key) try various tactics to ruin him, to varying degrees of success and good humor. This part of the film is pretty successful; Cherrie Ying is delightful and Ronald Cheung's "I'm a dumb boy from the mountains" routine is not overly wearying. Perhaps because this plot allows us a respite from Lau Ching-Wan, it seems better than it is.

For his part, Lau Ching-Wan acts opposite Cecilia Cheung, his costar from the remarkable LOST IN TIME. She's a sort of magical bird, and is very charming, again, distracting us from Ching-Wan with all her might.

HIMALAYA SINGH was actually shot, in part, in India -- opening up limitless possibility, none of which was grasped by the director. Might as well have been set on a backlot for all of real India that Wai Ka-Fai let show. Yet another disappointment in what should have been a lot of fun. There are some good, funny bits, though, such as an imagined "beginning of the world" sequence in which we follow the exploits of a cave man for a while, and the narrator explains, "Since it's too boring of being alone, he twists himself aimlessly. This is the beginning of Yoga." I can well believe it.

Rating: Not Recommended (Not Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on September 10, 2007.


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