Friday, June 11, 2021

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (aka Xing ji dun tai)
Kwok-Ming Cheung

Shaw Brothers Studio is most well-known in the west for their kung-fu film output, and for good reason. They are the studio that brought out some of the most famous, wuxia, kung-fu dramas, and a whole variety of historical and modern-day action films. The output of Shaw Brothers is actually incredibly versatile, they released films ranging from animation to comedy and even in the case of Twinke Twinkle Little Star, science-fiction. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star occupies itself with very broad comedy and more than a little parody of some popular science-fiction cinema of the west.

Plot takes a back seat to silly set-pieces but here goes, Li Tien-Chen (Cherie) is a ditzy and unlucky woman who has difficulty holding down a job. She is swept off of her feet by the son of a wealthy businessman. The two are bound to be married but her potential father-in-law will only approve if she is a virgin. Unfortunately for Li she loses her virginity to a very Millennium Falcon looking UFO. Her future in shambles, she decides to end it all on some railroad tracks. Along come two detectives (James Yi Lui and Tam Tin-Nam) who are also down on their luck and looking to end things. The three decide to prove that Li is telling the truth and hopefully make some cash in the process

Desperately looking for the plot.

So, this is 1980s comedy is dealing with rape in a manner that is tasteless at best and is the one of the  big sour notes (the other is some 'haha men in dresses funny' transphobia) in the whole production. The whole plot hinges on this development so it is kind of hard to ignore. If you look get past that fact, the film dumps ridiculous moment upon moment onto the screen. There are car crashes, musical numbers, and visual gags galore. The barrage is constant to the point where it just becomes exhausting to engage with the film. We get plenty of nods to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) along the way.

It might behoove you to just skip to the third act where we are treated to an enjoyable lightsaber between James Yi Lui and a certain dark cloaked, heavy breathing assailant wearing a helmet. This is the one moment the film is really effective as the fight is not only silly and creative but manages to create some real drama as both opponents suffer at the ebb and flow of the combat. The set design is wonderful here creating an arena for the fight that feels lifted out of Star Wars (1977) with out directly copying a specific location.

"Golly, that is a big one."

Twinkle Little Star is a big mess. If you are in the mood for a noisy disaster, give it a go, but if you’re just interested in the watchable parts I would skip to the last third. You won’t miss much, and the entire plot is explained at that point, then you can just sit back and watch an enjoyable and very goofy fight.

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