Himalaya Singh (Ximalaya Xing) a.k.a Himalaya Star



Reviewed by Lee Alon

Released just in time for gullible Chinese New Year audiences, this Wai Ka Fai product recalled mystical adventures like "Journey to the West' and oddball slapstick episodes a la "The Eagle Shooting Heroes", dishing out a semi-pleasant mixture of outlandish humor and goofy characters. It didn't do much for promoting its genre though, in essence rehashing cheap tricks previously employed by many of its predecessors, such as crass spoofs of well-known cinematic blockbusters.

Disturbingly, HS hired two favorite Hong Kong performers established for their ability in delivering quality dramatic roles, but both Francis Ng and Lau Ching Wan (Expect the Unexpected, Running Out of Time) were out of sorts here, the latter miles away from his traditionally solid tough guy routine. Probably best suited to benefit from such a rampant comedy, funny man Ronald Cheng did pull off one of his more entertaining appearances, following on lukewarm contributions to films like the recent Hidden Heroes and Golden Chicken 2. Perhaps this is what Cheng's good at: insipid, rude, and basically witless mayhem.
In Himalaya Singh, Cheng plays an eponymous mountain-based hillbilly (does that make him a mountainbilly, by the way?), known to his loving parents as master of yogic contortionism and all things karma. But, as life would have it, one day Himalaya Singh's folks (also delivered by Cheng, who did multiple duties in the movie) decided enough was enough, the lad had to grow up, see the world, and get married. Not just any old bride, either. He was earmarked to become engaged to India Beauty (Gauri Karnik a Bollywood actress), princess daughter of uber-contortionist and general spiritual authority King of Yoga (Sanatan Mody).
Winning India Beauty over wasn't going to be a walk in the park. Many suitors have offered their advances, including two random entrants who stumbled upon the proposed marital contest almost by accident. Francis Ng entered the fray as an amnesiac vagrant roaming the quite hallucinogenic Indian countryside with a magical suitcase and no clue as to who he might be. He soon took over two equally forgetful and preppy tourists from Hong Kong, the three ambling in search of lost identities, to occasionally entertaining results, like when they began tattooing themselves with stuff they didn't want to forget. Memento, anyone?
The third major protagonist had this reviewer confused. Lau Ching Wan's participation in Himalaya Singh was questionable at best, and reminded us more of a feeble Benny Hill imitation than anything else. Clearly the guy was miscast, with his part all in all more irritating than amusing. To make a dumb story short, Lau played the tour guide who was in charge of said HK youngsters, yet lost them after falling under the spell of local thieving hypnotists. While thus influenced, Lau's character imagined a romantic affair with an other-worldly female entity, played by Cecilia Cheung. Her role, more like a cameo really, succeeded in providing a few laughs, banking mostly on Cheung's chameleon-esque knack for metamorphosis, but remained minimal throughout.
All three at long last headed for the final competition, where India Beauty was to be handed to the most adept contortionist of the lot. But at least for Himalaya Singh himself distractions appeared en route, luckily so for us. Upon descending from the mountains, he met Tally, a hardcore mentor and aristocrat performed by gorgeous Cherrie Ying ("Fulltime Killer", "My Left Eye Sees Ghosts"). Ying effectively saved the movie from utter mediocrity, not just by being super hot and in possession of one cute midsection, but also by providing excellent laughs and consistent comedy. This stemmed from Tally immediately liking naïve Himalaya Singh, and therefore at first becoming keen on seeing him fail in his pursuit of potential rival India Beauty. To that end, she trained HS with all sorts of mismatched aids, like Ekin Cheng's "Young and Dangerous" VCD as preparation for street rumbles. Of course, the copy he watched happened to have Japanese porn on it, leading to lascivious rather than combative behavior from our hapless hero later on, and to the movie's best gag bar none.
Other moderate highlights included poking fun at "Kill Bill" and "Indiana Jones", but all told they failed in making Himalaya Singh really memorable. It wasn't atrocious or anything, and the story proper held plausible appeal, but those aren't exactly your most crowning of compliments. In the end, the movie resolved itself nicely enough, subverting 2001: A Space Odyssey's Dawn of Man prologue to its own tongue-in-cheek purposes, and showcasing technical standards above the norm in this type of film.
Gauri Karnik
Also production-wise, HS came replete with tons of CGI, most of it impressive but over-the-top as it portrayed various degrees of painstaking contortion techniques. The soundtrack, as is often the case with Hong Kong pictures, was ample and atmospheric, regularly upstaging whatever happened on-screen. Too bad you can't get just the OST. Fun for its hour and a half runtime, Himalaya Singh won't have you bending over backwards to reach for the repeat button, nor will it bowl you over with laughter.

Rating: 5/10

Directed by Wai Ka Fai
Starring Ronald Cheng, Francis Ng, Lau Ching Wan, Cherrie Ying, Gauri Karnik, Cecilia Cheung
2005, Cantonese, 97 minutes

Contact Lee Alon here