Magic to Win
Starring: Raymond Wong Pak-ming, Karena Ng Chin-yu, Wu Chun, Jacky Wu Jing
Director: Wilson Yip Wai-shun
Category: IIA (Cantonese)
This opus about sorcerers and volleyball is a most unmagical display of celluloid silliness. It's an unlikely combination crying out for imagination and, yes, magic, two qualities woefully lacking in Wilson Yip Wai-shun's direction and an uninspired screenplay by Edmond Wong Chi-wun and Chan Tai-lee (the directing-writing team behind both Ip Man films).
The plot boils down to a grab bag of poorly developed story strands concerning a quintet of magicians, each a master of one of the traditional Chinese elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water), and the dastardly scheme of the evil 'fire' magus (Jacky Wu Jing) to steal the others' powers. Not a bad departure point, but the narrative that emerges seems frustratingly unaware of what it takes to metamorphose the proceedings into motion picture fun.
Instead, we're treated to the inane antics of a women's university sports team. A mishap involving a kindly professor-cum-water-wizard (Raymond Wong Pak-ming, below right with Jacky Wu) unwittingly transfers his prowess to volleyball player Macy (a capable debut by teenage newcomer Karena Ng Chin-yu).
Not that the young woman, or the script, has any idea on how to make satisfactory use of her skills. Rather, she and her chums get mixed up in some petty money-making schemes that are stymied by the appearance of 'earth' marvel Ling (Wu Chun), who desperately needs Macy's help.
And so it goes, with Macy coming to the rescue of dipsomaniac 'wood' virtuoso Koo (a cameo by Louis Koo Tin-lok) and 'metal' conjurer Charlie (Tonny Jan). Jan, a bona fide magician with a following in Japan, is given little opportunity to shine due to the inadequate staging of his one major sequence.
Though the filmmakers strive for an up-to-date look by utilising a plethora of special effects, the underlying ethos is old-hat. The movie concludes with bland truisms so wishy-washy that even the supposed villain turns out to be merely misguided. So, too, the entire affair, which doesn't come close to living up to its Chinese title, 'Happy Magic'.
Magic to Win opens today