Mr. 3 Minutes
Hong Kong 2006
Directed by Gordon Chan.

Ronald Cheng has the same combo of manic comedy and Bruce Lee worship that made Stephen Chow's career such a smashing success. But if Cheng keeps making middle of the road romances like this, his career will start heading in the opposite direction.

Cheng plays a successful fashion designer who suddenly finds himself with a child he didn't know he had, who had been brought up so far by the sister of his old girlfriend (played by Cherrie Ying). Naturally he wants to keep partying with the ladies at first, but he comes to learn what all Dads learn, that actually it is really rewarding to spend lots of time with your son. Veteran actors Hui Siu-Hung (as a dumpling chef), Richard Ng (as Cheng's Dad), and Gordon Liu (as a be-wigged minor triad) make rewarding guest appearances, but Theresa Mo, as Cheng's assistant, steals the show.

Not that there is very much to steal. There isn't much to the comedy, and toward the end, someone tragically discovers that they have a brain tumor or something and probably won't survive. If I never see another movie about someone with a terminal illness, ever, ever, again, I will be happy. As it is the creaky old plot device keeps fumbling back into films as a cheap way toward pathos. You would think that the four screenwriters on the film could have come up with something a bit more clever. But apparently not.

The single clever idea in the entire film is the "Mr. 3 minutes" part: Cheng takes after his hero, Ultraman, and solves every problem in three minutes. This is a funny reference to the Ultraman series, in which the big budget fight with the giant monster always takes place in the last 3 minutes of the film, no matter what has transpired before. Then, Ultraman's flashing chest-light starts beeping, letting us know he needs to hurry up and finish the episode before it cuts to commercial, or something like that. Anyway it's a clever reference, which then is pretty much never used in the film itself. The overzealous English subtitles on the DVD call Ultraman "Superman", thus rendering the one clever bit completely non-sensical. This is my least favorite style of subtitling, in which they decide to substitute various English concepts/people for Chinese ones that the translators have decided that we would be too stupid to understand.

MR. 3 MINUTES has one small sequence inspired by viral videos on youtube -- involving a pack of Mentos and a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke (my favorite of which is certainly this one.). Though apparently Pepsi was the film's sponsor, or the prop department lacks attention to detail. In any case, this borrowing of pop culture exposes why Hong Kong cinema is flopping around like a dying fish these days -- I've now seen a movie appropriating that old youTube fun, but still nothing on Bus Uncle. In the old days, I'd be willing to bet Stephen Chow and Ng Man-Tat would have riffed on that viral video in movie theaters within three months of its appearance. These days, though, not a peep. Hong Kong movies are starting to lose their cultural relevance.

MR. 3 MINUTES is fine if you think of Ronald Chung as the next, say, Richie Yen. I think he can do better than that, though, so I find MR. 3 MINUTES to be next to worthless.

Rating: Not Recommended (Not Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 14, 2007.

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