Wonder Family

International Premiere | In Competition

 

The MaHua FunAge theatre troupe is renowned in China for its distinctive style of comedy that places great emphasis on the actors’ facial expressions. The immense popularity of the group’s theatrical productions has spawned a series of highly successful films. As a result, the theatre troupe’s directors and actors have also become stars of the silver screen, with Sheng Teng and Ma Li being among the most well-known faces in Chinese cinema in recent years. MaHua FunAge’s latest film, Wonder Family, celebrates the 20th anniversary of the group’s establishment; directed by Song Yang, one of its founders, it is not based on an original script but is a remake of a 2016 Russian film, Super Family, a comedy about a dysfunctional family that acquires supernatural powers after being hit by meteorite shrapnel. They take advantage of these new powers to rob a bank. The Chinese version is more narratively complex: the story begins with the return home of a prodigal son, Zheng Qiang, and gradually builds up to become a vehicle not only for the continuous comic gags the MaHua troupe are renowned for, but also for gruelling action scenes and grandiose special effects.

The family live in a fictional Russian-speaking country, where Zheng Qiang’s grandfather had moved to during the war to follow the Russian army. The family, made up of idiosyncratic and over-the-top characters, is dysfunctional, to say the least. The only seemingly normal person is Zheng Qiang, who, in order to escape his relatives, moves to China, where he becomes an IT technician and develops an app for managing financial assets. But when he returns home to attend his grandfather’s funeral, Zheng Qiang is approached by the local mob kingpin Chichicov, who wants to use his app for money laundering. Chichicov, played by Sheng Teng, who is transformed into a hilarious Caucasian-looking character for the occasion, is the epitome of the vulgar and ludicrous mob boss. But extremely dangerous nonetheless. After a family quarrel in which Zheng Qiang’s computer containing the app he developed gets destroyed, a nightly meteor shower hits the family, giving all of them, except Zheng Qiang, supernatural powers.

From this moment on, Zheng Qiang’s fate hangs on his family’s ability to defend him and help him escape Chichicov. But it soon turns out that the prerequisite for retaining their supernatural powers is that the family remains united: as soon as the family members move away from each other, their powers vanish.

Although they are all problematic characters, the emotional relationship that binds them is the crux of the film. This seems to be the message of Wonder Family: not only that unity is strength, but that family cohesion is indispensable for the harmonious development of society... The inclusion of other crucial characters in the story, such as a young woman who apparently wants to help Zhang Qiang so as to avenge the death of her father who was killed by Chichicov, provides the cue for plot twists and spectacular action scenes, but the core of the film is the relationship between the various members of the family and the parody of the West, represented through the powerful and vulgar Chichicov.

Maria Barbieri
Film director: SONG Yang
Year: 2023
Running time: 112'
Country: China
28/04 - 8:45 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
28-04-2024 8:45 28-04-2024 10:37Europe/Rome Wonder Family Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

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