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  Adventurous Treasure Island Fat brat in NeverlandBuy this film here.
Year: 1996
Director: Herman Yau, Ha Sau-Hin
Stars: Kok Siu-Man, Sik Siu-Lung, Ng Man Tat, Ng Ga-Lok, Vivian Hsu, Jackson Lau Hok-Yin, Fang Fang, Wong Yat Fei, Emily Kwan, Shing Fui-On
Genre: Comedy, Martial Arts, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Obnoxious fat brat Chu Si Ting (Kok Siu-Man) is so hyperactive and annoying even his family can't stand him, although the plot implies his gambling addict mom (Fang Fang) and dad (Ng Man Tat) should be nicer. He is also bullied at school both by his peers and his long-suffering teacher (Emily Kwan), though that might be because he accused her of fellating the principal. Ting seeks solace from his troubles by playing video-games at which he is quite adept. One night he discovers a strange glowing game cartridge floating in Hong Kong harbour. As soon as Ting plugs the game into his console water bursts forth from his TV set before he and his science geek older brother Si Man (Ng Ga-Lok) are sucked into a madcap multicoloured fantasy island. Beautiful beach babe Siu Sin (Vivian Hsu) saves Man from drowning while Ting bounces into Siu-Lone (Sik Siu-Lung), a flying boy with supernatural kung fu skills locked in battle with dastardly pirate Captain Hook (Jackson Lau Hok-Yin).

Chubby child actor Kok Siu-Man, martial arts prodigy Sik Siu-Lung and teen idol Vivian Hsu found stardom with Shaolin Popeye (1994), Taiwanese schlockmeister Chu Yen Ping's kung fu kiddie comedy which was a smash hit across Asia spawning several sequels and imitators. Seeking to get in on the children's film market, cinematographer turned Category III sleaze-meister Herman Yau reunited the Popeye gang for this silly, slapdash juvenile adventure. Adventurous Treasure Island proved the first of several family friendly outings that gradually drew the director of dubious fare like Ebola Syndrome (1995) and The Untold Story (1993) down the path towards mainstream respectability with a run of dramas, romantic comedies and acclaimed period films such as The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake (2011). Everyone knows Hong Kong cinema is pretty shameless when it comes to recycling Hollywood hits – though in recent years, that trend has reversed – but often those influences manifest in eccentric ways. Hence, Adventurous Treasure Island lifts its title from a certain Robert Louis Stevenson novel, steals a set-up from Tron (1982) but co-opts plot motifs from Hook (1991). In fact Yau goes so far as to re-stage several key scenes from the Steven Spielberg film with Si Man costumed to resemble Robin Williams' hapless Peter Banning and Siu-Lone an obvious, albeit charmless, stand-in for J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. And Captain Hook is of course, Captain Hook.

As happens in Hook the plot centres on a neglected child who ends up with a band of fun-loving pirates as a foster family, unaware he is being duped. Captain Hook has little trouble in convincing dim little Ting he is the good guy in this scenario. Whereupon the portly tyke ends up using his frankly ill-defined videogame talents to give Hook the upper hand in his war against Siu-Lone. The film's chief liability is the shrill performance of Kok Siu-Man who renders Ting an uncommonly unsympathetic victim of bullying and neglect. Whether siding with the pirates or belatedly allying with the good guys, he shrieks, whines and generally enjoys bossing everyone around. Eventually the entire Chu family end up imprisoned in the game but Ting's parents' tearful apologies soon lapse into an argument over who behaved worse as the brat goads mom and dad into beating each other up. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sik Siu-Lung is a remarkably gifted martial artist but no great shakes as an actor. His glowering, one-note character proves no more engaging. Only Vivian Hsu emerges a fairly sweet, likeable character though even she gets bogged down in a shrill romance with the annoying Si Man.

Co-directing with Ha Sau-Hin, who made the women-in-a-haunted prison trash favourite Jail House Eros (1991), Yau gives the film a lively, engaging colour palette with ingenious set design and lighting making the most out of the low budget. However the film is swamped in a sickly selection of saccharine Cantopop tunes that play non-stop throughout and often drown out the admittedly inane dialogue. Yuen Bun choreographed the wire fu action which although regrettably sparse is fairly decent particularly towards the chaotic climax. The film also sets some kind of perverse record for most gratuitous use of the word “bastard” in a kids' movie.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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