Nick Cheung shows off comic timing in Temporary Family

The cast of Temporary Family, (from far left) Oho Ou, Nick Cheung, Sammi Cheng and Angelababy, have excellent chemistry as urbanites who dream of living in a comfortable home.
The cast of Temporary Family, (from far left) Oho Ou, Nick Cheung, Sammi Cheng and Angelababy, have excellent chemistry as urbanites who dream of living in a comfortable home.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Review Comedy drama

TEMPORARY FAMILY (PG13)

100 mins/Opens tomorrow/***

The story: Property agent Siu Lung (Nick Cheung) is given a one-year ultimatum by his materialistic girlfriend (Myolie Wu) - double his net worth or get dumped. He hatches a plan to buy and flip a fancy penthouse for a quick profit, but first, he must convince three other buyers (Sammi Cheng, Angelababy, Oho Ou) to share the house cost with him.

How nice it is to see Nick Cheung do a proper comedy again.

No doubt he has been getting plenty of acclaim taking on gritty dramatic roles of late - take Unbeatable (2013) and Nightfall (2011), for example - but it is heartening to see the famously affable guy go back to his comedic roots and do something lighthearted for a change.

He does after all, as this film proves, have excellent comic timing.

In the role of ambitious property agent Siu Lung here, complete with a permanently stiff smile, he is often very funny as a guy who is willing to go to great lengths to make a sale. Which means plenty of scheming and blatant physical shoving aside of any competitors to get what he wants, even if it is at the expense of the people he loves.

In his world, real estate talks - when he proposes marriage to his girlfriend, he gets down on one knee not with a diamond ring, but with the key to an apartment that he believes will eventually rise in value.

"Speculate on property, this is how Hong Kong people live," he says with conviction, when a young intern from China asks him what he should do to properly experience life in the city.

What makes much of the script by notable screenwriter Cheuk Wan Chi (Merry-Go-Round, 2002) so sharp, on top of all its witty one-liners, is that its observations about life are very much rooted in real issues plaguing urban city folk.

In crowded Hong Kong - and increasingly in Singapore - good real estate is gold and the ability to squeeze out every square foot of your home almost becomes an art form.

For Siu Lung and his unlikely trio of partners (all of whom share excellent cast chemistry), all they want is to be able to live in a comfortable home, but it has become a dream so elusive that they almost lose all sense of empathy in the process.

Pity that the later half of the film switches tone and becomes overly wacky, milking cheap slapstick gags instead of actual wit for laughs.

Save for some hilarious cameos from Heavenly King Jacky Cheung and the talented Dayo Wong, as well as a surprisingly comic turn by Hong Kong legislator Regina Ip as herself, the film by the end loses steam as quickly and unpredictably as the housing market itself.

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @Styipwaiyee