Review: 'A Chinese Odyssey Part Three' lacks heart

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 92 minutes (1.5 hours)

“A Chinese Odyssey Part Three (大话西游3)” is a Chinese fantasy adventure comedy that’s the sequel to 1995’s “A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box (西游记第一百零一回之月光宝盒)” and “A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella (西游记大结局之仙履奇缘)”. 

It’s loosely based on “Journey to the West” and sees the characters from the first film attempting to right the Jade Emperor’s mistakes. It stars Han Geng (Monkey King/Joker), Karen Mok (Bak Jing-jing), Jacky Wu Jing (Longevity Monk), Gillian Chung (Thirteenth Mother of Spring), Tiffany Tang (Zixia), Sophia Hu Jing (Guan Yin), Xie Nan (Princess Iron Fan), Shawn Huang (Bull Demon King), Wang Yibo (Red Boy), Huang Zheng (Jade Emperor), and Cho Seung-youn (Pigsy). It is rated PG-13.

You know what they say about the third movie in the series? “A Chinese Odyssey Part Three (大话西游3)” fulfils all those stereotypes, being a complicated mess that tries hard to ape the style of the first two films but falling flat. 

And it’s been over 20 years — surely more thought could have been put into the story? It’s all shiny glitz and elaborate costumes, but what it lacks is heart.

Highlights

Pop culture jokes and references

This is one element which the film has in common with its predecessors — its penchant for inserting anachronistic humour into a period story. It’s done very clumsily, but it still manages to eke out a few chuckles in the rare instances where it works.

Letdowns

Longevity Monk is thoroughly disappointing

The problem with Longevity Monk (Jacky Wu Jing) is that he looks like a sleepy pervert with that faint, knowing smile on his face all the time. To make things worse, he has no sense of comic timing, and just ends up delivering his lines and actions in the same style throughout the film. 

He has no bonds with the other characters, meaning that you don’t even have the more seasoned performers to save his acting. He is, without a doubt, the worst aspect of the film.

Too much maniacal laughter

Characters break into fits of laughter on the slightest provocation, throwing back their heads in incredibly odd displays of pleasure. It might have been mildly amusing the first few times, but it just seems trite halfway through the film. Did the script have any other direction besides “maniacal laughter?”

Low quality special effects

While I applaud the creativity of the special effects, there’s just no mistaking the sub-par quality of the animated portions. If it were intentionally bad, that would be funny — instead, it tries hard to be good, only to be constrained by the skill of the animators. And the green screen looks like an intern did it.

Heavily dependent on your knowledge of previous films

It links back heavily to previous films, except that the actors are no longer the same. 

This is something that “A Chinese Odyssey Part Three (大话西游3)” tends to forget, which muddies an already convoluted plot. A lot more exposition and reminders were required, since a movie that came out in 1995 isn’t something that would still be fresh in everyone’s minds.

“A Chinese Odyssey Part Three (大话西游3)” is an insincere attempt to continue a decades-old movie franchise.

Should you watch this if it’s free? OK…

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Only if you watched the first two Stephen Chow movies.

Score: 2.25/5

“A Chinese Odyssey Part Three (大话西游3)” opens in cinemas:
- 22 September, 2016 (Singapore)
- 15 September, 2016 (Malaysia)


Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.