Film Review: All's Well Ends Well 2012

Couples face romantic problems and occasional jokes in the latest entry in a long-running Hong Kong series.

The seventh in a series of romantic comedies tied to the Chinese New Year, All's Well Ends Well 2012 flings four couples through minor entanglements before delivering them to happy endings. Plotwise a step up from last year's casually homophobic outing, All's Well Ends Well 2012 skimps pretty severely on actual comedy. Asian viewers will still enjoy watching various Hong Kong movie stars make fools of themselves onscreen. Outsiders are likely to be baffled by all the commotion.

Returning from All's Well Ends Well 2011 are the four male leads as well as the ebullient comedienne Sandra Ng, who starred with Stephen Chow and Maggie Cheung in the first entry of the series back in 1992. Ng plays Chelsia, a down-on-her-luck pop star who latches onto Carl Tam (martial-arts star Donnie Yen in a fright wig), once a member of a 1990s boy band. They audition for a musical, leading to amusing parody videos of disco, Bollywood, and Hong Kong pop duo The Twins, along with long dramatic passages about staying true to your dreams no matter what everyone else says.

Last year Louis Koo played a makeup artist who pretends to be gay to advance his career; here he's a blue-collar construction worker who falls for high-class photographer Julie (Kelly Chen) with disastrous results. Koo has fun stripping down for his modeling sessions, and Chen is appropriately icy, but their storyline is too predictable, and never builds to big laughs.

Raymond Wong, a producer on the series since its inception, plays a divorce lawyer estranged from his wife and daughter. He agrees to fill in as a father figure for orphaned Cecilia (mainland star Yang Mi), who has a week to marry to gain her inheritance. An old-school sentimentalist, Wong leans toward scenes that are squishy and maudlin, although he does come up with a funny mahjong game involving old pop songs and hopping vampires.

Last and weirdest, Chapman To is Hugo, a novelist who agrees to date blind ballerina Charmine (Lynn Xiong) so she can experience romance. A narcissist despite his looks—To reportedly based him on director Peter Chan (Wuxia)—Hugo is both cruel and insecure, a combination that results in very few laughs. In fact, the best joke in the film is pretending that the stunning Xiong couldn't find a date.

The previous All's Well films were pretty ramshackle affairs, which was part of the fun. Imagine genuine Hollywood stars showing up in a Scary Movie episode to mock their previous performances in song and dance, and you get a sense of how All's Well Ends Well operated. This entry has a bit more narrative cohesion, but at the expense of that "anything goes" humor that made the series so watchable.

On the other hand, if the idea of making fun of Canto-pop, Asian millionaires and Peter Chan cracks you up, All's Well Ends Well 2012 is the film you've been waiting for.