The seventh and final film in the Lucky Stars film series, Frankie Chan’s How to Meet the Lucky Stars was meant as a benefit film to help legendary producer Lo Wei (the man who made Bruce Lee a star and almost stopped Jackie Chan from becoming one) who at this point was close to bankruptcy. All the leads worked for free, but sadly not only was the film a box-office flop, but Lo Wei passed away during the shoot. Richard Ng, Stanley Fung and Eric Tsang return, with Michael Miu once again filling in for Charlie Chin after Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, and Sammo Hung being absent from much of the film despite playing two different roles (his usual Lucky Star character Eric Kidstuff who’s stuck in a hospital, and a policeman). This time the Lucky Stars are recruited to help expose a gambling femme fatale (Gung Suet Fa), whose shady methods have led to the death and dishonor of a gambling star (Chen Kuan Tai). They are joined by a Shaolin monk (don’t ask why) and of course, a gorgeous woman (the stunning Francoise Yip) to drool over, as per the Lucky Stars formula. There’s also a laundry list of cameos, from Cheng Pei Pei as a gambling teacher to Lowell Lo as, erm, some guy.

While the team displays its usual chemistry, the film suffers from a criminally long runtime : 1 hour and 50 minutes is stretching it for any comedy, but for something as madcap and episodic as a Lucky Stars film, it’s almost criminal. It doesn’t help that much of the film consists of protracted gambling scenes meant to cash in on the nineties gambling trend in Hong Kong cinema, launched by Wong Jing’s God of Gamblers ; such scenes are of little interest if one is not well-versed in the card games represented here. But outside of a brisk but unmemorable action finale, there’s a tired feel to the proceedings, each staple of the franchise (like Richard Ng essaying his non-existent supernatural powers, Stanley Fung being stingy, the gang trying desperately to get laid…) being ticked off mechanically, with always the underlying feeling that this was a dying breed of comedy, one year before Hong Kong’s retrocession to China.

Long Story Short : With its overlong runtime and tired feel, How to Meet the Lucky Stars is a tepid end to the Lucky Stars film series. *1/2

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