MY DEAR ELEPHANT (2019) review

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In My Dear Elephant, his most light-hearted film since 2012’s The Great Magician, Lau Ching Wan plays the owner of a traveling circus whose star attraction is a trio of highly-trained elephants. But just as he hopes to bring more stability to his team by joining an in-development amusement park called Dreamland, he’s harassed by a plucky animal rights activist (You Jingru), whose ex-boyfriend (Pan Yueming) is none other than the co-owner of Dreamland. Shot three years ago, Shao Xiaoli’s film was finally released earlier this year, no doubt to scrape a few Yuan from the other circus elephant film of the moment, Disney’s Dumbo.

It’s one of those films that fail at every single thing they attempt. As a comedy, it’s incredibly unfunny, a collection of listless pratfalls and boring bickering, with only old pro Lam Suet raising the odd chuckles here and there as a loan shark. As a romance, it sketches a chemistry-free seduction between Lau Ching Wan and You Jingru, but does it so poorly, that it has to resort to random bouts of voice-over to explain that said seduction is happening; after which it shoehorns Kong Wei’s dancer into the proceedings, in a half-assed attempt at a love triangle. As an animal rights drama, it’s hopelessly muddled: we see so little of the elephants themselves, that it’s hard to know how they’re being treated, and thus what point the film is trying to make.

Still, My Dear Elephant manages to be slightly memorable by going off the rails on a few hilariously misguided occasions: witness Lau Ching Wan literally enter an elephant in heat, from the rear. It’s a scene that has to be seen to be believed, and one for which we can offer no satisfactory explanation yet. Any elephant expert should feel free to enlighten us in the comments section below this review. There’s also a moment where You Jingru’s character gets lost in the jungle, and pungent mushrooms cause here to have visions of elephants flying in space, carried by fluorescent mushrooms, with a constellation than ends up taking the shape of Lau Ching Wan. One last one for the road: during a show gone awry, an elephant is stuck on the showroom’s ceiling and urinates all over the activists who came to protest the way they think he’s treated. Oh well, at least this is less boring than Integrity.

Long Story Short: A poorly-written fable that utterly fails as a comedy, as a romance and as a drama, My Dear Elephant is peppered with moments of unfathomable weirdness. *

 

 

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