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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Retro Review: Wheels On Meals (1984)

Wheels on Meals (Kwai Tsan Tseh)
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Lola Forner, Benny Urquidez, Herb Edelman
Genre: Martial Arts Comedy
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $21 million

Plot: The owners of a mobile restaurant help a private detective in search of a mysterious woman

'Jackie Chan's Reign In Spain Is Simple & Well Constructed, But Lacks Bigger & Better Action'

Since their progression from the Peking opera academy to their rise in the Hong Kong movie world, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung have appeared in several films together in My Lucky Stars, the sequel Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Project A and Dragons Forever. They were all action comedies and they all displayed their acting, as well as their martial arts fighting abilities & comedic side. Wheels On Meals, the precursor to My Lucky Stars, is directed by Hung where for the first time, the threesome's antics take place in Spain. 

A light-hearted comedy starring the trio of Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung and the follow-up to Cannonball Run II in 1984, it's not much a comedy really but a light-hearted film of two kung fu sparring partners/mobile caterers & cousins, Thomas & David who come to the aid of a lone female on the run from the bad guys. They run a mobile restaurant titled 'Everybody's Kitchen', whilst in Barcelona and in the shape of a yellow Mitsubishi van, complete with computerised '80s technology & serving different types of food & beverages such as hot dogs, noodles, fried rice with Jackie's Thomas taking orders, whilst riding on a skateboard. Sammo Hung plays a private eye, Moby. During Thomas & David's visit to see David's father in an institutionalised hospital, they come into contact with a young woman named Sylvia, who turns out to be a thief & steals Thomas's wallet. Yet after running into Moby, they learn she is a wanted woman who is pursued by the local mafia. Afterwards, when she is kidnapped, Thomas, David and Moby team up to rescue her. 

The story in Wheels On Meals is simple, yet effective but well constructed: two people travelling to the other side of the world to make a living, only to become embroiled in a scheme involving the mafia and a young woman. The decision of Hung's to go down the international route makes a nice change of scenery and it worked wonders. Having the film set in Spain only adds to the story and enhances it and the foreigner ''fish-out-of-water'' subplot was done better here than with Rumble In The Bronx and is put together far more eloquently. And although this is not the standard fight fest one would come to expect in a typical Jackie Chan and even a Sammo Hung movie, at least with this offering more emphasis is placed on building a story and developing the characters, which Wheels on Meals does well in. & When there is a fight or stunt scene, it is pretty good. 

The sight of Sammo Hung with a Jeri-curl is funny to see. There is a gag where Moby gets drunk and downs glass after glass of red wine, whilst he is in search of his mates. 

It may not be the most high-octane and action-packed of all of Jackie Chan's movies when it comes to breathtaking and extravagant stunts and fights, which it should have been, besides the battle between Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez and Jackie Chan, but story-wise, it is definitely more narrative-driven & it is a lot more adventurous. The comedy with Richard Ng and John Shum of the Lucky Stars movies alongside Sammo Hung & Jackie Chan is flat and thus the scenes with Moby in the hospital van and two mental patients should have been edited out. Fans of story-based action movies, who don't mind less action in favour of more dialogue, will feel right at home and ease with this one.  

Plus, it makes up with plenty of charm. 

Final Verdict:

Wheels on Meals does feel a tad long, but I suppose had the comedy been more on point and it had a bit more action, this would have made it more enduring as a film. It's not the complete Jackie Chan movie and that balance of action with comedy isn't there, but the charm that is in My Lucky Stars through the Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung trio partnership works a treat and it's great to see their efforts here. 

I still prefer Police Story as the ultimate Jackie Chan flick - the stunts, fight choreography, the quality of action in that movie is still unrivalled in my eyes -, but for viewers interested in any of Golden Harvest's movies, this is a very good one to see. 


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