Rating: 3 out of 5
I'm not much of a fan of Chinese movies nor romantic comedies, but The Jade and the Pearl - while not resulting in a groundbreaking upheaval of my genre tastes - managed to be a sufficiently entertaining ride that never takes itself too seriously.
The straightforward plot (no Inception, here) concerns a spoilt princess (Charlene Choi) sent off to the West to be married, her convoy guarded by a small army whose general (Raymond Lam) she initially cannot stand. Naturally - perhaps unrealistically - they eventually fall in love, thus satisfying the romantic element of this romantic comedy, and they exchange the titular jade and pearl as tokens of their love. Soon the group is attacked and the princess sent tumbling off a cliff and down a very, very long slope, at the bottom of which she wakes with no idea of who she is or how she got there. She gets taken in by Ling (Wong Cho-Lam): a crazed suicidal storyteller with delusions of grandeur who lets her be his assistant. Meanwhile, the general sets off to find the princess, and in the process gets involved with a gang of bandits led by the tough San Niang (Joey Yung), who ends up completely smitten with him.
While there are few laugh-out-loud moments (most came from badly translated subtitles about people pasting through the desert), the film maintains an easy, lighthearted pace throughout that never feels like a drag. Much of the film's humour comes from the often-overdramatic acting and events that occasionally veer into the ridiculous, although there are times when the absurdist humour of fourth-wall-breaking jokes and terrible, terrible CGI seems out of place and jarring in the otherwise realistic period setting.
The protagonists are for the most part two-dimensional: the princess is a standard spunky girl who is used to getting her way and wants to continue getting her way, and the general seems largely void of personality apart from the strong and silent nice guy stereotype. Perhaps most memorable is the tragicomic character of the storyteller Ling, whose scenes shine as among the stronger points in the film and include its most emotional moment
The film starts to lose steam towards the conclusion, tapering off in what at first looks to be an unsatisfying anticlimax before hurtling into an abrupt happy ending which feels rushed and tacked on; but this film was never meant to be a narrative masterpiece, and as a simple, enjoyable time-passer, it does a good enough job.