72) Tricky Brains (1991) Dir: Wong Jing Not Yet Released Date Seen: March 19th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5
Writer/director Wong Jing has a bad, nay a terrible wrap for being one of the worst Hong Kong filmmakers of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Tricky Brains (1991), was made at the height of his career—one of six films he’s credited with directing that year—and its stars—Stephen Chow had eight roles that year while Andy “toilet song” Lau had thirteen—and hence its a prime example of his worst and/or best work, depending on your tolerance for extra cheesy, poorly timed and slipshod humor.
Jing’s films willingly sacrifice logic for the sake of more gags than any sane viewer can handle. Tricky Brains has a plot—a professional practical joker (Chow) is hired to pretend to be the son of Yan-chi (Ng Man Tat), a businessman and the father of Chi-Man Kit (Lau) because…well, we find that out much later for reasons undefined—but it’s negligible. That barebones set-up is just an excuse for the film’s loosely organized string of off-kilter gay jokes, impromptu off-key singing, sight gags, slapstick routines and costume changes—Lau’s fans should note that Tricky Brains is the first time Lau wears a muscle suit. The film’s superhuman, more spazzy than Bazzy level of energy is pretty infectious so long as the viewer is willing to accept that the film has no greater ambition than to throw several kitchen sinks’ worth of grade school-level humor at you.
Realistically, the film’s cast is the real reason to watch Tricky Brains, confirming my suspicion that nobody today goes out of their way to watch Jing’s films unless they’re trying to look ironic and/or kill a few brain cells. Like any physical comedian, Chow’s mugging is usually hit or miss, but Jing’s overcaffeinated script gives Chow an ideal amount of scenery to chew up. His supporting cast is, as always, terrific, especially Chingmy Yau as (wait for it) Banana Yau and Ng Man Tat, still the only mustachioed Hong Kong actor to look good in a dress (admittedly, I have yet to see Suet Lam wear one). Their nutty performances make it very hard to dismiss Tricky Brains because of its uncannily high camp content and harder to defend it as a guilty pleasure. More than likely, that’s what it and the rest of Jing’s films will remain for everyone but a few crazies like me.