The New King of Comedy is a 2019 Chinese comedy-drama film directed, written, and produced by Stephen Chow. Chow's own 1999 film King of Comedy; this time set in Mainland China with different characters.
The film tells the story of a young woman dreaming and striving to pursue the actors' dream despite being an extra and stand-in. It was released in China on 5 February 2019 during the Lunar New Year 2019. With a budget of $8 million (US) and few months of filming and post-production, it is believed to be the minor project of Chow's career as a filmmaker. The New King of Comedy, thankfully fares better. Chow borrows the premise from his previous hit King of Comedy (1999) in which an aspiring actress learns the ropes of being an actress from a down-and-out teacher. More importantly, he stays away from cheesy VFX to tell a down to earth underdog-getting-her-day story.
For the lead role, Chow used a relatively unknown actress in 29-year-old E Jingwen. Chow says of the new movie: “It’s set in a different era and the lead character is now a woman. I find that the strength of a woman is more restrained but powerful.” E Jingwen is serviceable in the lead but what I find endearing about her is her calm spirit. Nothing brings her down, but finally the brutal truth hits her and it brings her to her knees. She was able to channel some good laughs in well-staged scenes that had great counterpoints.
Where the movie falters is with Wang Baoqiang’s arc, which irks and grates on my nerves with over-acting. It lacks pathos and his scenes don’t know when to stop. A call-back to _King of Comedy _about packed lunches for movie extras feels tacked on. Up to the beginning of the third act, the movie was going towards a cliché ending I could see from a mile away. Then it hits a point of inspiration and I was surprised I was blinking back tears. 如梦 finally comes into a sublime moment and uses a sad moment in her life to channel her acting chops. My tears were earned in that scene which surprised me.
_The New King of Comedy _doesn’t fall into Chow’s top tier but quickly slips into the second. For a Chinese New Year movie, it managed to bring on some great laughs and that one moment of splendiferous inspiration was the icing on the cake.