THE LION MEN: ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN (PG)
107 minutes/Opens tomorrow/*1/2
The story: Now that Supreme (Tosh Zhang) has left the Tiger Crane lion dance troupe to join the Storm Riders, it is up to Mikey (Wang Weiliang) to lead his crew at the grand finals of the lion dance championships. At the same time, Mikey starts spending more time with Supreme's girlfriend Xiao Yu (Eva Cheng), much to Supreme's annoyance.
The boys have finally progressed to the grand finals of the lion dance championships, and are set to battle it out for the title once and for all.
The question is: Who cares?
Whether it is the traditional Tiger Crane dance troupe led by Mikey, or Supreme's hip-hop-inspired troupe Storm Riders, the stakes are not high enough for either of the teams to make the viewer want to root for them.
It hardly matters if Mikey the underdog or the more talented but brash Supreme wins because both guys remain as one-dimensional as they had been in the first film.
There is in fact little reason for this follow-up movie to be made at all, given how the characters barely go through any sort of development.
When director Jack Neo had split his top-grossing Ah Boys To Men army movie into two parts, he had at least offered some fresh material in the second film, as friendships turned sour and allegiances changed.
Most of this film, however, simply feels like a rehash of its predecessor.
That means more of the silly (and pun-laden) trash talking between the different troupes, more of the cheesy love triangle between Mikey, Supreme and token female Xiao Yu and, worse, more of those horrendous newfangled lion dance routines.
Neo deserves credit for trying to make a traditional art form more accessible for the younger generation, but the resulting hodge podge of acts that meld lion dance, hip-hop, rock and acrobatic stunts together simply looks gaudy and cheap.
The director must have felt truly stretched by the end of the work because he suddenly throws in a madcap kidnapping segment, something which he probably lifted from his 2002 I Not Stupid movie.
It elicits few laughs, and highlights just how terrible he is at crafting strong female roles.
Xiao Yu here is the worst role model for young female audiences as she deliberately casts herself as the victim in hopes of getting her "hero" boyfriend Supreme to come and rescue her.
Er, what century are we living in?
The only positive about this film is, again, the wise casting of Tosh Zhang and Wang Weiliang as the leads.
They are natural performers and, despite what little they have to work with, manage to convince in their roles.
Everyone else, in classic Neo movie fashion, prefers to adopt the method of acting where every emotion must be grossly exaggerated.
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