A retired superhero couple decides to put their long-abandoned superpowers to the test against uncanny opponents when a nationwide martial arts championship comes to their quiet hometown.
Indulging in the gaudy celebratory excesses that Chinese New Year annually symbolises, Vincent Kok’s lovable holiday blockbuster Mr and Mrs Incredible wins no points for comedic subtlety (or common sense, for that matter) but sure delivers the crowd-pleasing goods in its own eccentric way.
Huan, aka Gazer Man (Louis Koo), and Red, aka Aroma Woman (Sandra Ng Kwan Yue), are two retired superheroes who have settled into a contented existence in a small Chinese village, far from the glare of fandom and the responsibilities of your everyday justice crusader. They keep their true identities hidden yet find it difficult to contain their powers – he is feted by the town’s young men for his inexplicable physical skills (he can read a newspaper that has been made into a kite and soars high on the wind), while she demurely panders to the rotund chorus of town gossips who chide her for her choice of husband (yet she can pound cockroaches with an iron fist that splits a table). Perhaps their greatest superhuman feat is avoiding a court date with the suits at Pixar – the shameless similarities to The Incredibles (2004) are there for all to see.
Unable to conceive a child, Huan and Red set about making their lives more exciting in order to stimulate their senses once again. This reaffirmation of their true selves culminates in a martial contest that has them leave retirement behind and face off against the evil Blanc, who has extracted the martial arts prowess from the region’s greatest warriors with an evil eye towards overthrowing the King.
Mr and Mrs Incredible succeeds spectacularly where many American graphic novel adaptations so often fail: a stylistic adherence to the bold colour schemes and frame composition of traditional comic book art. The opening titles are gorgeously-rendered images reflecting lithographic artistry; flashback sequences, in which we see Gazer Man (so-named because of his all-powerful eyes) and Aroma Woman (she casts powerfully-fragranced petals into the face of her foes) meet cute and solve a hostage crisis, seem conjured from the pages of classic pulp-fiction.
Audiences expecting an all-out romp may feel their attention wandering in the mid-section, which focuses heavily on the couple’s emotional attempts to expand their family, balance the budget and deal with their lifestyle choice. If talky passages concerning adultery and some dopey comedy moments disappoint the martial arts aficionados, they do point to a commitment to fully fleshing out the two central characters; the film is as much about the romance an aging couple share and their efforts to broaden their love as they mature as it is about chopsocky whimsy.
Special effects range from the sublime (its lightning-and-thunder finale wouldn’t be out of place in a Harry Potter instalment) to the intentionally ridiculous (a late night stand-off between Gazer and a smart-alec fly is stupid but well-staged).
Most importantly, funnyman Kok maintains a fine sense of joy throughout, allowing audiences to wallow in the frantic sense of fun he creates. Eastern audiences will perhaps draw more mirth from the pairing of the established and much-loved leads acting so goofily, but there is enough good-natured antics and wordless slapstick to carry the film to a wider international crowd.