Directed by Jeffrey Lau, this fantasy-action-comedy stars Stephen Chow, Man-Tat Ng, Yammie Lam, Karen Mok and Kar-Ying Law.
Joker (Chow), the rather inept leader of a gang of robbers, is oblivious to the fact that he is actually the Monkey King, who was punished for his bad behaviour and turned into a human 500 years earlier.
The movie begins rather abruptly, as if some of the introduction to this sequence got trimmed down too much, showing the Monkey King disobeying his master, Longevity Monk, and being swiftly chastised for his misdeeds by Guanyin, the Goddess of Happiness. The narrative briskly zips forward hundreds of years and focuses on Joker’s comedic, slapstick encounters with a couple of she-demons, who take over his motley crew of incompetent thieves as they await the arrival of Longevity Monk. You see, these monstrous (and attractive) femmes want to eat some of Longevity Monk’s flesh, which will make them eternal.
Even though the characters are taken from the classic novel ‘Journey to the West’ by Wu Cheng’en, A CHINESE ODYSSEY PART 1: PANDORA’S BOX has nothing to do with that story.
The earlier portion of the movie is crammed with Chow’s usual blend of earthy humour, pratfalls and slapstick, and is followed by loads of enjoyable fantasy-action situations. These include the woman-demon known as Spider Devil (Yammie Lam) going on a well-mounted rampage after transforming into a long-legged arachnid-monster, Joker inexplicably zooming around the place using his hands instead of his feet, and encounters with King Bull (Luk Shu-Ming), who is a huge, bull-headed dude who can also shrink down to human-size.
Once the main characters reach the Spider Web Cave, the filmmakers seem to depend too much on the opening and closing of sliding rock doors as a device to propel the plot forward but, on the plus side, we get some fun, oddball moments, such as a fight inside King Bull’s guts, a time loop sequence and an on-off romance between Joker and the demoness Pak Jing-Jing (also known as Boney M), who can turn from a human-looking female into a robed, strange-faced, white-haired being.
The film ends just as abruptly as it starts, finishing with some action-packed footage from the second part, A CHINESE ODYSSEY 2: CINDERELLA.
Okay, let’s have one more look at the cool spider-critter…