Bubblegum packaging makes for gooey kung-fooey in the latest showcase for Hong Kong’s megastar pop duo Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, aka Twins. Success of last year’s “The Twins Effect” guaranteed a reunion, though costume martial arts saga “The Huadu Chronicles: Blade of the Rose (Twins Effect II)” isn’t a sequel. High-priced production ($10.2 million), shot in China, raked in a respectable $2 million locally this August (only half the original’s), but the weak fight sequences won’t cut a swathe in the West.
Experienced co-helmers Patrick Leung and Corey Yuen were supposed to inject, respectively, some serious character and fight action into the cuteness. Producers also hoped to hitch Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee, to the Twins stars, but dad’s cameo far outshines his sapling’s bland screen debut.
An evil queen (Qu Ying) and her self-castrated high priest Wei Liao (Daniel Wu) rule over an Amazonian, man-hating land with all-female legions of pink and purple-armored warriors. The dastardly duo sends out Blue Bird (Chung) to find and kill the man prophesied as the next emperor.
After a tepid battle of swirling fabrics between Blue Bird and petulant slave trader 13th Young Master (Choi), the pair joins forces in the hunt, catching up with Blockhead (Wilson Chen) and Charcoal Head (Jaycee Chan), one of whom will be able to grasp the sword Excalibur and defeat the queen. The foursome pairs off in predictable ways, but not before they encounter underground leader Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Donnie Yen), who unleashes Excalibur’s protector, the Lord of Armor (Jackie Chan), in pic’s only worthy display of martial arts bravura.
In both plot devices and CGI (by H.K. company Menford), pic shamelessly channels everything from “Stargate” to “The Mummy”; over-reliance on animated effects in the fight sequences gives a cartoonish quality that will have action fans yawning. Acting is mostly passable, though Choi’s perpetual girlish pout becomes wearisome, and Jaycee is easily overshadowed in both screen presence and looks.