"If there was a plot for this series, it was over in about 2 episodes..."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Chinese Title Deciphered
In Cantonese, Tin Zhi Cham Loong which kinda means Heaven Born Looking For Dragon which really isn't Whatever It Takes you know. Very bad English title. Why not "Searching for the Emperor?" or "Crouching Dragon, Hidden Pearl?""
Costume drama/comedy set in early Tang Dynasty
Cast ... Character
I can't remember the characters' names so I will use the names of the actors instead.
Benny Chan ... Lei Loong Kei / Ah Yi
One lost heir to the Tang throne finds his way back to his rightful throne with the help of a bumbling fairy sent from the heaven for her mistake decades ago.
The story? Ok, just a rundown. Mo Chak Tin disposed off her useless husband with the help of her secretly evil lizard-man minister and because of a warning that some unborn grandchild of hers will take over her throne one day (huh?!) she ordered her grandchild to be killed before jailing her own daughter in law who spoke ill of her tough governance. That boy survived and was rescued from a floating basket by a woman who herself has a son. Years later, Lee Loong Kei becomes Ah Yi, a lowly cheat who earns a living by what else but cheating people together with his adopted family but he has a kind heart you see. His own adopted brother playes by Evergreen Mak was annoying to say the least. When a fairy played by Annie who herself inadvertently caused the downfall of the Tang Dynasty (you see, there's this pearl which represents teh stability of the Tang Dynasty and this stupid fairy whilst cleaning it moved too far away from the pearl's place and so the stability was broken and all that nonsensical stuff) was sent to redeem her own clumsiness by searching for the real prince and restoring him to the Tang throne, thus the Chinese title of this series. She bumped into Ah Yi who was kind enough to help him and mistakenly thought Evergreen to be the real prince. So Evergreen used her not to become a king but for more petty thefts and forces the beauty played by Tavia to marry him only to be rescued by Benny. Evergreen swore revenge but by that time Benny and Annie knew he wasn't the prince but Benny was. And guess what? Benny does become a prince because he kind of accidentally bumped into is own grandmother who took an immediate liking to this young man. When she realised he was her grandchild, she took him in and married Tavia to him. And then drama begins when the minister took over the empress' form and controlled the empire until our heroes fought back, Tavia died, fairy goes home and Evergreen became an eunuch! Years later, fairy reappears as Yeung Yuk Wan and finally Benny found his Annie again.
If there was a plot for this series, it was over in about 2 episodes. The rest of the series were repetition or supreme silliness only the biggest fans of Benny, Annie and Evergreen could muster. I am quite a fan of Benny and I always liked him in costume drama. Evergreen Mak is also a great chameleon-like actor who could play any role whilst Annie Man, well she's quite ok. But this series had a very weak plot which at times was draggy and most times very unrealistically stupid. I must be frank with how I view this series because it's junk like this that makes TVB look so darn idiotic and makes all the actors look really bad.
Junk! Total junk!
I guess not many people realise the meaning of the ending and was speculating is that Annie or some reincarnated Annie or some other girl looking like Annie? Excuse me, she's Yeung Yuk Wan and you do know who that is right? Then go to my review of Legend of Lady Yang, because that series could be a sequel to this prequel. A happy ending when this woman is going to be the cause of the biggest downfall to a dynasty? What a joke! Is it supposed to be a tongue in cheek ending? I hope so because I find it really brilliant for an ending since this whole series was so usual stuff.
Repetition, that's what this series is about. I lost count as to how many times Annie's character almost died and came back very much alive. I lost count how many times Evergreen Mak's character was up to no good and I really am not bothered with who Benny loved in this series (Annie, he loved Annie but felt grateful for Tavia's support who herself was in a thankless role of the forgotten other one in this series towards the end), and really I am not bothered how they disposed off with the evil one at the end because this whole series wasn't taking its own subject seriously and how am I going to take it seriously in dramatic scenes? Was it supposed to be funny because it wasn't funny, it was very tiring to even write this review describing how I feel about this series when no words can spell my feelings, maybe I should try ...
"Ai sheh man!"
That's how I felt, having wasted my time watching my precious Benny in such a junk.
I Don't Get It Factor
You know, this series built on a basis of Mou Chak Tin's fear of her own grandson toppling her empire, Zhao Dynasty and that was why she went all the way to kill him when he was a baby on the advice of her evil minister. Which was funny because she can't live forever and when she died, if not her own grandson who will take over her throne so then who? It was so illogical you know, that she had such fear of losing her empire to her own offspring's child meaning someone who had her blood in his body! So who she wanted the empire to go to? The lizard man??
At first I didn't get this. Why would this woman take such offence of his own daughter in law that she would imprison the heavily pregnant lady in jail?? Useless husband dared not to defy his own stern mother but why punish the daughter in law? I didn't get in until at the end the daughter in law revealed she offended Mou Chak Tin by saying something bad about her. Now that was strange because she was heavily pregnant with Mou Chak Tin's grandson! It was more logical for the original explanation that I had, that Mou Chak Tin was advised that the unborn child would one day topple her dynasty and take over the dynasty and make it a Tang Dynasty again. But then this argument wasn't even convincing to me because check out the first paragraph under this heading. Tang dynasty or not, that child had Mou Chak Tin's blood. So when the whole series tried to paint a more human like grandma-ish picture of Mou Chak Tin that she was a misunderstood woman was very wrong, didn't make sense because nothing in this series made sense at all!
Then that pearl. What was it for? It was so darn big in the first scene and yet later on it deflated in size and became small like well, a pearl. Even until the end I knew nothing about the pearl except it was for stability of the Tang Dynasty. So? Didn't make sense at all.
And if the fairy was entrusted with such a heavy burden to restore the Tang Dynasty and the whole world depended on that, shouldn't the Heaven sent someone more qualified and less careless or stupid like this fairy was?
And finally that scenes where she was in a man's body. It was so weird to see her with a moustache and a woman's voice which was deepened but that voice wasn't Annie's. For many episodes I saw her in that disguise and it was pretty tiring to watch such repetition and such badly dubbed voice. Why can't they find a real man in that role? Because then Annie Man would have much less scenes? I would have wished she had less scenes because she was so boring to watch. How many times must I see her being so darn stupid? Apparently, not too many times.
Let's talk about the performances then.
Everybody was quite ok except for the lady who acted as Mo Chak Tin who was so dramatic, she reminded me of Michelle Yip, so over the top. Benny was ok, though he was not trying hard and if I were him I wouldn't try at all. Annie was annoying to say the least but her costume was lovely. Evergreen Mak succeeded in irritating the hell out of me and I thought he did a great job then in portraying his useless scheming character. Lo Lan? Ok for a veteran. What about Tavia? I saw her in Awakening Story and she looked just like a younger Maggie Cheung Hor Yee. Amazing that she graduated from acting school as I read somewhere. Her acting you were asking? Can I say stoned? She was ok but she looked stoned, maybe that is too strong a word to describe her acting maybe the better word is "jampi" (it's Malay for like a spell cast on someone and that's exactly how she looked in this series, especially when in later episodes she was indeed "jampi-ed" by the lizard-man minister). She looked like she was sleep walking even through the dramatic scenes and yes, I like her character and I hate how her ending was which was very unfair to such a nice character, dead AND forgotten by the man she died for. Ungrateful twit!
In the end what I think of this series? Avoid it at all cost, even if you're the biggest fan of Benny and Annie. This is junk but really not the worst series I have seen this year but it is close. The only nice scenes were between Benny and his grandma and some of the solution to their problems were so contrived, so unreal that this series became a joke in the end. It was really THAT bad.
Strictly for die hard fans of Benny Chan, Annie Man or Tavia Yang. If you're not a fan of the actors, please avoid this at all cost. It threads very narrowly between being nonsense and total junk.
The themesong was nice though.
By the way this series adopted the most primitive way of making a costume flick. I don't think I have seen wire-flying scenes for such a long time that is so obviously wire-flying you know. And the kung fu is so bland, so primitive and it has been quite a long time I have seen smoke in a kung fu scene. I can't describe it in here but once you see this series you will know what I am talking about. Very nostalgic if you see this series in a good way but if you see it my way, this series probably has a really low budget or most probably a lazy uninspired action co-ordinator.
There was a Lee Long Kei. To know more about this man and Tang Dynasty, do read my review of Legend of Lady Yang, also in TVB section. There was also Yeung Yuk Wan but the real story is far more tragic than this series implies.
Now what about Mo Chak Tin? You know the grandma? Was she such a nice old lady driven by her ambition and at last became docile thanks to familial love?
Not really. I took the info below from 100 Chinese Emperors and believe me, the only female emperor in Chinese history was quite an intriguing woman albeit very deceitful and some would say evil as well. How was a woman could govern an empire if she was not evil, mean, strong, and very calculative?
"Empress Wu Zetian/Mou Chak Tin (624-705: she formed the Zhao Dynasty toppling Tang Dynasty but Lee Long Kei restored Tang Dynasty) was 14 when she became a concubine of an inferior position of Emperor Tai Zong (that emperor in Journey To The West) and was granted the name of Wu Mei (Mou Mei as in the series meaning charming) by the emperor. When he died, she was sent away to a temple and became a Buddhist nun. Later she was summoned back to the palace and became the empress of the then 22 year old emperor Li Zhi. In 683 crown prince Li Xian succeeded the throne after the death of Li Zhi but was deposed the following year by this woman and she made Li Dan, another son of hers to be the emperor. Later this poor Li Dan was put under house arrest and she proclaimed herself Emperor in 690AD when she was 67 years old. She was strict, she ruled with an iron fist, some said she used sex to seduce powerful generals to be loyal and she created many tools for torture. But she was also well known for making vigorous efforts to achieve prosperity for the country. She gave priority to able men, irrespective of their background and qualifications. She promoted agriculture, compiled books on agriculture which was issued to the whole country. In 705 she became very ill and prime minister Zhang Jianzhi staged a palace coup and restored Li Dan to the throne under the original Tang dynasty. 82 year old Mou Chak Tin was forced to abdicate and died of illness soon after. In 712 after some years of uprising in the palace, Li Dan's son, Lee Loong Kei was crowned Emperor Xuan Zong."
Sordid stuff eh?