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Director: Wong Jing
Producer: Ching Siu-Tung
Cast: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Cheung Man, Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Fennie Yuen Kit-Ying, Vivian Chan Tak-Yung, Ng Man-Tat, Damian Lau Chung-Yun, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, Deric Wan Siu-Lun, Tsui Kam-Kong, Lau Kong, Lee Ka-Sing, Yeung Ching-Ching, Lee Fai, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia (cameo)
The Skinny: Blockbuster Stephen Chow comedy from Wong Jing. The relentless assault on your funnybone can be amusing yet tiresome. Chow fans should be satisfied, but this isn't his most accessible film. However, for popular entertainment Royal Tramp does its job.
Blockbuster parody of the famous "Duke of Mt. Deer" novels and television serials, except this time protagonist Wai Siu-Bo is essayed by (at the time) newly-minted superstar Stephen Chow. Bo is the son of a prostitute who chances into an affiliation with the Heaven and Earth Society. Hero Chang Chin-Nam (Damian Lau) assigns Bo to infilitrate the Emperor's court to steal the "42 Chapter Classic", a martial arts book which will help the Heaven Earth Society overthrow the Ching Dynasty and restore the Ming Dynasty.
However, Bo accidentally ends up applying to be a eunuch. Saved from castration by head eunuch Ha Da-Fu (Ng Man-Tat), he's sent by Da-Fu to spy on the Emperor and steal the aforementioned "42 Chapter Classic" from the Empress Dowager (Cheung Man). But, Bo makes friends with the Emperor (Deric Wan), who entreats Bo to spy on Ha Da-Fu and evil bastard Ao-Bye (Tsui Kam-Kong). If that isn't enough to complicate matters, Bo is pursued sexually by the Princess (Chingmy Yau), he receives twin warrior women (Fennie Yuen and Vivian Chan) to watch over him, and the Empress Dowager isn't even the Empress Dowager! She's actually a member of the Dragon Sect, who are also after the "42 Chapter Classic" and other assorted martial arts tomes. Wai Siu-Bo earns her enmity, which sets up her return in Royal Tramp 2, except now she looks like Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia. And, there's fighting.
Wuxia purists will go berzerk at Royal Tramp's fast-and-loose interpretation of established literary lore, but fans of the weird and wacky will probably die laughing. As a Wong Jing/Stephen Chow extravaganza, the film contains more screwy comedy than ten other pictures, which isn't necessarily a good thing. The low-brow laughs are easy to get, but Western audiences will completely lose the film's copious wordplay. Without knowledge of Cantonese, we're left with Chow's hilarious mugging, supreme overacting by the entire cast (especially Ng Man-Tat and Tsui Kam-Kong), and generous portions of Ching Siu-Tung's fluid fight choreography. All of that put together can equal a very fun time, though one will have to ignore Royal Tramp's uneven pace, which piles joke upon joke to the point of exhaustion.
To become even more critical, one could point the finger at the character of Wai Siu-Bo, who is simply a fast-talking conman who manages to avoid death AND score hot babes without really breaking a sweat. As portrayed by Stephen Chow, Bo isn't much more than an annoying hanger-on who's extremely lucky. If one requires that a protagonist experience "change", then Royal Tramp is must-avoid cinema. However, it's doubtful that anyone involved in this picture cared for character arc, and audiences sure went home happy. Royal Tramp was one of the five top-grossing films in Hong Kong in 1992, and ALL FIVE starred Stephen Chow Sing-Chi. Clearly, someone was doing something right. (Kozo 1995/2002)