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Thursday, 3 January 2019

Retro Review: The God Of Cookery (1996) #Hongkongcinema

The God of Cookery aka Sik san
Cast: Stephen Chow, Karen Mok, Vincent Kok, Lee Siu-Kei, Law Kar-ying
Genre: Comedy
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $15 million

Plot: The most renowned and feared chef in the world loses his title of  ''God of Cookery'' because of his pompous attitude. Humbled, he sets out to reclaim the title

'A Bit Of A Feast & Foodie Delight'

A film that is essentially a riff on God of Gamblers starring Chow Yun-Fat, The God of Cookery is a culinary comedy from Hong Kong whereby the laughs, though not as rapid-fire and consistent as they come, it is a film that much like with the central character is trying to find and perfect its stride. It's about a guy who is at an all-time high: successful, but cocky, but when he endures his lows, he becomes less vain, tries to pick himself up and to do better - yet is more human.

& when it eventually does by the final act, it makes sense. It's a story of redemption involving chef, Chow who takes on the mantle of an arrogant who thinks he is a know-it-all chef and deems himself untouchable and undefeatable to his rivals and to anyone who challenges him for the throne of 'God of Cookery', staging elaborate contests and flashy reality shows just to show off. He even disgraces himself by fixing a contest, in order to publicise and boost his image, which becomes tainted when the truth is out. When a former student of Chow's humiliates him in front of his peers and the media, Stephen Chow's Chow beats a sudden retreat, finding refuge at a Shaolin Temple that doubles up as a cooking school, and from there on, perfects and hones his culinary skills and thus exacting his vengeance, as well as redemption on his part in his bid to reclaim his title. With an unlikely ally in Sister Turkey: an outspoken street food vendor and chef, played by Karen Mok, who is given the ugly duckling treatment in the looks department, Sister takes no crap from anyone. That, and she makes a pretty mean Barbecue Pork and Egg with rice (Char Siu, Gai Dan Faan as it's known in Chinese Cantonese) too. Her and Chow then team up to create two dishes: Beef Balls and P***ing Shrimp, with the last dish making a positive impression on his friends and it rekindles Chow's love and passion for cooking, giving him the confidence to beat his rival, Tong in the God of Cookery cooking competition.

It's a mixture of Iron Chef with Chow's deadpan talky comedy. Stephen Chow's comedy style is very satirical, brusque and deadpan in nature that is kind of akin to say, perhaps Steve Martin, Rowan Atkinson and Bill Murray, with his movies that veer from slapstick to melodramatic tragedy to comedy. It also reminds me of the anime Cooking Master Boy, which has a similar-ish plot but with a young boy, in place of the adult. Compared to Shaolin Soccer, it lacks a bit of polish, although the structure kind of plays out similarly to Kung Fu Hustle and as the film went on, the better and more interesting the story became.

The comedy itself, may not be to everyone's tastes and will take a while to get used to for some; for me, there wasn't one single gag that didn't have me laughing, smiling or chuckling. The laughs weren't ''ha-ha-ha'' funny, but sporadic and consistent, but I wouldn't say that I had a straight face throughout, either, and yet much of the humour feels fresh. Being familiar with Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, thankfully, the humour in The God Of Cookery is definitely along the same eccentric & eclectic lines as those movies. 

Final Verdict:

Any film that has food as a main or sub-theme must include numerous shots of good-looking dishes and food items, and The God of Cookery doesn't disappoint. Just by looking at those images would make one salivate & hungry, like I was.

If you enjoyed Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, then be sure to take a dive with this one.


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