THE MIDAS TOUCH
Starring: Chapman To Man-chat, Charlene Choi Cheuk-yin
Director: Andrew Fung Chi-keung
Category: IIB (Cantonese and Putonghua)
No stars are born with The Midas Touch, a witless showbiz parody which distantly recalls the ineptitude of producer Chan Hing-kai's earlier travesties, such as 2008's La Lingerie and 2009's Poker King.
Developed from an original story by Chan - whose La Comédie Humaine (2010) helped establish Chapman To Man-chat as a top comedy actor in Hong Kong - this scattershot film provisionally charts the rise to stardom of a seven-member girl group, christened Oh My Girls (or OMG), over a five-year period.
Somehow, this second directorial effort of veteran scriptwriter Andrew Fung Chi-keung - which reunites him with his leading man from The Bounty (2012) - also manages to keep these actresses unrecognisable through a vacuum of personalities, as well as a lack of meaningful back stories or discernible talent.
The Midas Touch follows no-nonsense debt collector Mak Chiu (played by To) as he decides, for reasons unknown, to take over a modeling agency from a penniless client. He also inherits managerial rights and responsibilities for the eight beautiful but laughably childish young women who are signed to the company.
The headcount drops to seven as one is tempted away by a porn director, never to be seen again. Although the aspiring entertainers' specialities range from barking like dogs to belching over and over, Mak Chiu is determined to "make stars out of them all".
To achieve the highly improbable, the part-time mobster and full-time dreamer enlists the help of Suen Mei-mei (Charlene Choi Cheuk-yin), the ex-manager of A-list film star J-Dragon (Gao Yunxiang), after she is sacked over revelations that she had been secretly lusting after her own client.
Unlike Heiward Mak Hei-yan's considerably bleaker Diva (2012) - also produced by the Emperor Group, in which To played a talent manager (albeit far less supportive than Mak Chiu) - The Midas Touch trades realism for forced laughs as it hurdles through a series of real-life scandals that have taken place behind the scenes and, at times, in the darkness of nightclubs.
The glimpses of wisdom displayed by Fung and his team of scriptwriters - such as when they have Suen Mei-mei turn down all job offers just to build up OMG's appeal - are consistently offset by their indulgence in stupid gags.
As its narrative swims against the stream of awful, broken Putonghua spoken by some of the cast, and the occasional, but no less irritating, overexposure of To's and Wong Cho-lam's modest physiques, the film feels like an unintentionally cynical view of the star-making industry, where effort and talent count for little and luck determines almost everything.
In a further twist, The Midas Touch may well have provided the most ironic testament possible to the industry's harsh and unfair reality, thanks to its line of cameos of past and present members of Emperor's idol machine: from mainstay Nicholas Tse Ting-fung to the newly paraded Hins Cheung King-hin, and many in between who have faded from our collective memory.
The Midas Touch opens on September 5