Chilli Laugh Story review – fun Chinese comedy offering hot sauce hijinks

A Hong Kong family’s lockdown project to market a much-loved home recipe is an engaging effort that might just appeal to international tastes

As film distributors are all too painfully aware, comedies are notoriously difficult to export from one culture to another, however successful they may have been in their home territory. But this perky Cantonese feature is relatable and timely, given the story revolves around an extended family of working-class Hong Kong strivers trying to get ahead and survive the recent pandemic.

Twentysomething protagonist Coba Cheung (popstar Edan Cheuk-On Lui), lives in a modest flat with his hardworking mother Rita (Gigi Leung) and charming but shiftless dad Alan (Ronald Cheng). An average student who doesn’t have the same prospects as his friends from wealthier families, Coba has to do what he can with a natural hustler’s instinct. As Covid-19 hits Hong Kong hard and confines everyone indoors, Coba is inspired to make the most of lockdown by turning his mother’s much-loved recipe for chilli-garlic sauce into a hipster-friendly commodity. They eventually sell it via the internet after they’ve scaled up production, sourced exactly the right kind of jar and perfected the marketing. Alongside this, Coba’s Aunt Wendy (comic force of nature Sandra Kwan Yue Ng) is struggling with feelings of loneliness since her own son is now grown up and preoccupied with his own career and family, while Rita is plotting to buy a flat for Coba in his name with her share of the profits in order to realise her dream of owning property instead of renting.

The story sort of lollops along like a big friendly dog, following a predictable trajectory of success and failure. There are stops along the way for some romance for Coba with a pretty flight attendant as well as some toilet humour – a natural by-product of a story that revolves around chilli. There’s a little dig at the evils of contemporary capitalism, but nothing really controversial that would trouble the censors either back home or here in the UK.

• Chilli Laugh Story is released on 15 July in cinemas.


Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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