Over the past four Lunar New Year holidays, producer Raymond Wong and his team have been going head-to-head with producer Eric Tsang and TVB. Each group producing pointless, star-packed comedies aimed at undiscriminating audiences. The winner at the box office gets bragging rights and probably a ceremonial red packet from Karl Maka. While the universe keeps spinning and audiences rightly forget whatever it was they just saw.
It looks like TVB also forgot about last year because they left Eric Tsang hanging and went with Wong Jing, Chow Yun-Fat and From Vegas to Macau as their Lunar New Year entry. The rejected Tsang switched teams to play for Raymond Wong in his 2014 Lunar New Year challenger Hello Babies (Quy Tu), yet another pointless, star-packed comedy aimed at. You guessed it – undiscriminating audiences. Besides Tsang, Raymond Wong employs a bunch of the same people he usually does in Hello Babies. Thereby proving that the more things change, the more they actually stay the same. Or something. Whatever, it’s got jokes and babies, which is pretty much all you need to know.
The surprisingly coherent, if totally sitcom story: Longtime rivals Lui Ming (Raymond Wong) and Yeung Ah-Wai (Eric Tsang) challenge each other to see whose family will receive a son first. Ah-Wai’s son Alex (Alex “Son of George” Lam) is having a baby with wife San (Karena “Girlfriend of Raymond Lam” Ng), but the child is a girl, leaving the patriarchal Ah-Wah upset.
Lui Ming pushes his nephew Scallop (Ronald Cheng) to have a child with his wife Cher (Fiona Sit). But the two are spoiled brats with no concept of responsibility, and neither wants children. To get them to reproduce, Lui Ming hires Gong San (Sandra Ng), a “superstar midwife” with a wonky mainland accent and supreme pregnancy-inducing skills. Also, Scallop and Cher had better get their act together soon, because Ming has Alzheimer’s disease. Scallop and Cher know Alex and San. So there’s crossover between the couples as they commiserate about their family pressures and baby issues. Ninety minutes later, everything gets resolved. Hopefully, you laughed once or twice along the way.
As usual for Lunar New Year fare, the jokes are hit-or-miss. Though the hit-to-miss ratio improves when the actors are good ones. Luckily, Wong and Kok seem to have learned from their work on last year’s solid Hotel Deluxe, bringing back Sandra Ng to anchor a large portion of the comedy. However, the MVPs may be Ronald Cheng and Fiona Sit, who show strong chemistry and a delightful abandon when tackling the sometimes embarrassing or randy gags.
The two transition between comedy and cuddling quite well. And even maintain character during numerous scenes where they appear to be cracking up at Sandra Ng’s unscripted antics. Ng, Cheng and Sit work so well together that it compensates for Alex Lam’s amateurish acting and his generally uninteresting pairing with Karena Ng. Raymond Wong is fine considering the usual expectations of his thespian skills. While Eric Tsang plays very well off Ng. Also, Tsang gets points for making fun of himself with jokes that refer to his hobbit-like stature and Mickey Mouse-like voice.
The film’s Chinese title romanizes as “Luk Fook Hei See”, which means “Six Fortune Happiness”. Though greater meaning comes from the film’s sponsorship by the Luk Fook jewelry store chain. Product placement is in full force: Besides Luk Fook, the film pushes Seahorse Mattresses. Pegasus Films (the hospital in the movie is called Pegasus Hospital) and also Agarwood tree products from Malaysia.
Because Agarwood, sure, why not? If shilling isn’t your thing. You’ve got movie parodies (more Grandmaster jokes, yay) and star cameos, the biggest being an extended bit with Miriam Yeung and a late scene with Louis Koo (Co Thien Lac) playing himself for thirty seconds. The story eventually peters out and goes nowhere. But that’s OK. You take what you can get with these movies. And Hello Babies breezes by easily enough to give it a pass. Just think of Lunar New Year movies as iPhones: A new one arrives every year. It always looks the same and improvements are mostly superficial. And yet the same people line up to buy them every year. So it is with Lunar New Year movies and Hello Babies.