Ah Fai the Dumb | Chicago Reader

Ah Fai the Dumb

Family solidarity triumphs over greed in this 1997 comic fantasy about a simpleton (Eric Kot) who?s miraculously transformed into a seer. Temple Street, the squalid Hong Kong slum where much of the story takes place, is lovingly depicted by director Derek Chiu as a comforting cradle; in contrast, the rest of the city is populated by straitlaced, superstitious money-grubbers. The ghetto scenes, shot on location in a tenement flat, a funeral parlor, and a run-down Cantonese-opera teahouse, have the genuine yet expressionistic feel of Akira Kurosawa?s Dodes?ka-den. But Raymond To?s script becomes simplistic, boldfacing the class differences and providing the requisite love angle in a cliched subplot. And while the cast generate a certain bonhomie, Kot?s over-the-top performance (which pays homage to Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor) oscillates from the suave to the idiotic. Still, Chiu shows a welcome knack for finely observed social comedy and quiet, heartfelt celebration of the human spirit.

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