Friday, May 22, 2009

Movie Review: Wheels On Meals

Yes, this isn't the advertised next film in my roughly-chronological Jackie Chan Film Festival, but I decided to dust it off for another look. And you know what - it was better than I had remembered.

Now maybe this is just because of my recent pass through a couple of the Lucky Stars films - a couple of the cast members from those films pop up in cameos here. This one is a definite step up from those, both in terms of the comedy and the action. It's still true that this is an Asian comedy, not Western, so the overall tone is different. But the comedy bits here are at least a bit more subtle - and yes, funny - than in some of the prior Chan efforts. That's a good thing, because the first half of this film is focused on the comedy and plot intros, rather than the action.

In this one, Chan and fellow "Three Dragons" Yuen Biao play cousins who run a mobile restaurant out of a van. They deliver meals on skateboards (explaining the title and giving Jackie yet another chance to exercise his 80's skateboarding interest). They get hooked up with a female con artist - Yuen plays the heartstruck romantic, while Chan plays the more sensible skeptic - who is coincidentally being sought by a private detective friend of theirs played by Sammo Hung.

After 45 minutes of comedy beats with these four characters and assorted supporting characters, we eventually get to the plot - she's an unknowing heiress, and her uncle is trying to kidnap her and her mother in order to keep the inheritance for himself. Here's where the action finally kicks in, as the uncle's hired thugs take the women to a castle, and the three friends head off in pursuit.

Once we get there, the actions scenes are top-rate. Jackie and friends are portrayed here as skilled but not overly-skilled, and the thugs are shown as on par with their abilities. So the fights are relatively even affairs, with Jackie deciding to break off rather than fight on more than one occasion. The ending fight between Jackie and Benny Urquidez is considered one of the best ever, and it lives up to its reputation in my opinion - Benny doesn't back down for a minute, doesn't fall for any of Jackie's tricks, and really just gets beaten after a fairly lucky punch by Jackie. It's an outstanding sequence and fairly brutal given the relatively light tone of the rest of the movie.

If you can deal with the relative lack of action (and somewhat better-than-usual Asian comedy bits) in the first half, then the second half of Wheels On Meals should definitely be given a look for Jackie fans, especially compared to some of his other comedic films of this period. Three solid stars, just because overall it doesn't quite rise to "classic" status for me.

No comments: