Eternal Happiness

Reviewed by: the blur one

December 30, 2004

Rating: three-point-five

No. of episodes: 32

Meng Lai Kuan - Michelle Yip Suen
Wong Po Siu Wah - Raymond Lam
Tit Muk Ee/Emperor - Joe Ma
Weng Lan - Rain Lau
Ying Suet/So Wan - Tavia Yeung
Lau Yin Yuk - Myolie Wu
Meng Lai Kuan's brother - Mok Kar Kiu
Futt Gor Chek/9th Prince - Liu Kai Chi

See the cast list? See any big names there? I was surprised too. Are you sure these people had pulling power? I guess this is TVB's showcase of its newest and next generation of talents. Are they able to live up to the task set out before them though? Honestly, I had my doubts. But they all managed to prove me wrong. The acting was well done and thanks to the script, this turned out to be a truly delightful and fun affair.

This is the story of Meng Lai Kuan -- supposedly an extremely intelligent and opinionated girl who loves dressing up like a man in order to roam around freely. She hates being confined, loves to be able to roam freely and goes against all what a woman in her time should be. Dressed in men clothes, she comes into acquaintance with Tit Muk Ee, Marco Polo and Wong Po Siu Wah and the four become sworn brothers. There is love, misunderstandings, mistaken and false identities and of course, comedy. To put it short, this was a good, funny piece -- a light-hearted, fast-moving, feel-good affair for the whole family. I noticed one thing towards the end -- the baddies got what they deserved but -- and this is what I call a made-for-family-viewing serial -- no one dies!

Okay, okay. Seriously now. If you take away all the absurdities of the story line (see below for list), this really is a very highly enjoyable and entertaining series. I have not read the actual story of Meng Lai Kuan, nor do I know much about the history of the Mongols or the period of the Yuan dynasty. When I first started watching, I was rather confused if Tit Muk Ee was Kublai Khan or not (because there was the appearance of Marco Polo. But then I remembered that Marco Polo was supposed to be a lot younger than Kublai Khan but in "Eternal Happiness", he was older than Tit Muk Ee). Also, the fact that did Tit Muk Ee really exist or were these all just made up characters? Okay, so cast all history and logic aside. Just watch it for pure entertainment and watch it for this cast of 'newbies' - whom I've got a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of in future TVB productions.

The Leads

Michelle Yip Suen as Meng Lai Kuan
I have to say one thing first. Michelle looks better dressed as a man than she does as a woman! I didn't like her female costume at all and her hair looked awful as a woman. There was another thing about Michelle I noticed -- her eyebrows! Don't know if that was make-up but it was really arched most of the time and well, it made her face look funny. Aside from how she looked, how did she actually fare as the female lead? Well, this is the first time that I've ever come across Michelle Yip (I did not watch "Gods of Honour" or the other piece she was in with Benny Chan and Gordan Lam). I was rather skeptical too when I started watching "Eternal Happiness". I couldn't help but keep comparing her to Tavia Yeung and wondering how Tavia would have done if she had been given the role of Meng Lai Kuan instead. But Michelle does really well here. She gave a rather commendable characterization of Meng Lai Kuan and brought out the 'I'm-my-own-woman-and-I-do-what-I-want' attitude very well. She was funny and cute too and you could not help but like her from the very start. Though at times I felt, she could have done more with her eyes. Her surprise reactions/facial expressions were somewhat lacking - all she did was open her eyes a fraction bigger and all it did was make her look weird. On the whole, Meng Lai Kuan was a very easily likeable character and Michelle did well in this role. I think her performance here may just silence some of her critics and earn her a few more fans.

Raymond Lam Fung as Wong Po Siu Wah
We've been seeing a lot of him lately. And I believe we will be seeing more of him in future serials to come. Raymond was great in "A Step In The Past" playing Qin Shih Huang Ti and in Eternal Happiness, we see a complete change in character. A Step In The Past is still rather fresh in my mind and to watch him here in Eternal Happiness, you realize this guy really has talent. Wong Po Siu Wah is chivalrous, noble, loyal, trustworthy -- all the typical characteristics of a 'dai hup' but ugh, really, really, really slow in mind. Raymond's portrayal of Wong Po Siu Wah will have you wishing you could reach into the TV screen, grab his neck, wring it and scream at him, "Why are you so dumb??!" You can actually see confusion written all over this poor boy's face! Ugh. I'm still imagining myself shaking him and giving him a few slaps to wake him up from his stupor. I mean, to be fooled by a mere mole! (You'll know what I mean when you watch the serial. I won't give it away now.) How dumb can a person be?! Honestly, I didn't like Wong Po Siu Wah at all. He was too righteous, too noble, too straight, too trusting, too everything. In other words, I found him really boring. But, oh well, I'm not Meng Lai Kuan. Yes, Raymond Lam put in another great performance here. From the tyrannical Qin Shih Huang Ti to the stupid, dumb Wong Po Siu Wah - two entirely different characters with contrasting personalities, yet Raymond carried them off very well.

Joe Ma as Tit Muk Ee
Joe Ma has done it again. And I think it really is about time TVB promoted him to leading status and let him carry a series on his own. Joe Ma's Tit Muk Ee is an intelligent, calm, cool and collected person. He exudes a certain air about him - of course, his stature and build does help -- making him a good choice for this royal role. You detect some ruthlessness in him later when he becomes emperor. We see hints of this ruthlessness in his 'friendly' dual with Wong Po Siu Wah -- Joe's eyes just seemed to glint with a tinge of spite. We also see displays of this when he threatens Meng Lai Kuan by keeping her father in the palace. But Joe Ma does not let it go overboard so that we start to see Tit Muk Ee as being the bad guy. In the end, emperor or not, he is still just a man with a weakness -- merely a man in love and a man who would try his best to win the woman he loves…

Michelle and Raymond
I preferred them as angsty, star-crossed, not-meant-to-be lovers more. Am I mad? Probably. But it seemed to me that they portrayed that a whole lot better than when they eventually got together in the end. I loved the scene when Lai Kuan finally revealed to Siu Wah that she was his betrothed all along. The intensity of that scene -- the camera work focussing on both their faces -- the despair and pain of not being able to be together because our dear silly boy was due to marry someone else on the emperor's orders -- sigh, so sad…

Michelle and Joe
One word. Weird.

Michelle just seemed wayyyyyyyyyyyy too young for Joe. They look more like brother and sister when placed together. Then again, it could just be me ~shrug~ Though the part I liked best with them together? When Lai Kuan was in jail and Tit Muk Ee tried to persuade her to be his wife because that was the only way he could save her. She tells him, "You know what I'm like. I like to be free, to be able to do what I want…that was the reason I started dressing up as a man in the first place. If I marry you, I'll forever be a bird in a glided cage. I can never be that. I would rather die." Well put. Lovely. The finality of those words. They could never ever be together and Tit Muk Ee could not argue with that.

The supporting cast:
Rain Lau as Weng Lan

Rain Lau as Weng Lan
Funny, funny, funny. Especially her and Lai Kuan's discussions about men or rather the lack of men in her life! I love it every time Weng Lan moans that the men only seem to have eyes for Lai Kuan and Lai Kuan teases her by saying, "Why don't you take him instead?" and Weng Lan goes, "I don't mind!" Hilarious. Rain Lau is at her usual element here.

Tavia Yeung as Ying Suet/So Wan
Hmm…okay, the question I have is: Would Tavia have fared better as Meng Lai Kuan instead of Michelle? I have seen Tavia in "Awakening Story" and in "Whatever It Takes" and although her role as Ying Suet/So Wan here leans more towards Whatever It Takes, she has also proven that she can also play the vivacious, rebellious character that was in Awakening Story -- which would be some of Lai Kuan's characteristics here. I was rather annoyed that she was relegated to such a minor role here after "Whatever It Takes". All right, I admit, I'm rather fond of her - she reminds me a lot of Maggie Cheung Ho Yee - and yes, I would like to see her taking on more substantial roles in the future. Okay, enough about all that, what about her role in "Eternal Happiness"? We only get to see more of Tavia in the later episodes, when she becomes the god-daughter of the 9th Prince and his wife. Honestly, it wasn't a pivotal role or anything but Tavia played it adequately. Really not very much different from her role in Whatever It Takes.

Mok Kar Kiu as Meng Lai Kuan's brother and the bandit queen
Mok Kar Kiu's facial expressions are such a laugh and he really looks the part of a bumbling idiot. The funny moments were when every time he wanted to blurt out that Meng Lai Kuan was actually female and thunder rolled across the sky, warning him of the oath he had made. The look on his face was simply hilarious. The bandit queen - funny she may be but I didn't think she could really act. She was pretty stiff at times and her timing was rather weird. It was like she was waiting for the director to call out, "now!", and that was when she would enter with her line or action or whatever. That aside, Mok Kar Kiu and her really do make a strange and funny pair.

Liu Kai Chi as Futt Gor Chek
He looked the part and he acted the part. His tan, his weather-beaten ruggedness, his obnoxiousness -- they made him more real -- exactly how I expected a Mongol warrior to be. From the very beginning, one would think that Futt Gor Chek would be the villain in this serial. Stubborn and hard-headed with a big temper to boot, he was one man you didn't want to cross. He blames the death of his daughter on a Han man, he tells his wife, they never had a daughter, his attitude is one of 'I don't care', but really inside that hard exterior, he is but a softie. You can see the pain on his face whenever he talks about his daughter, you see the love he has for his wife, you see his hard exterior begin to melt with the appearance of So Wan (Ying Suet under the guise of another name) into his family. You realize that his arrogance, his ambition, his stubbornness all stem from being a neglected and misunderstood child all along. Through Liu Kai Chi's portrayal, you begin to realize that this guy isn't so bad after all - that he still had a heart, that he was still capable of love, that all he wanted was, love and reassurance from his father. I thought this was one brilliant performance by him, and definitely the best performance in this series.

Myolie Wu as Lau Yin Yuk
This is one sad, pathetic character. Were we supposed to empathize with her? Or was her role here just to irritate us with her undying 'loyalty' to her father and brother. Numerous times she pled for her brother's life when he treated her like crap. Numerous times it made you feel like grabbing her by her shoulders and shaking some sense into her. She gladly accepts it when she knows Wong Po Siu Wah does not love her. She suggests that theirs is but a marriage by paper. She runs away so that he can be together with Lai Kuan. Where in this world is there a woman who is more understanding?! Ugh. Definitely no sympathy there for this Lau Yin Yuk. All Myolie did was succeed in irritating and annoying me with her 'I-am-such-a-sad-girl' facial expressions.

Most irritating characters
Although Myolie came close, this honour would have to go to the four bandits. I don't know the names of the four who played them but I cringed every time they appeared. Call it a bad case of over-acting but they went too overboard and only succeeded in irritating the $hit out of me - probably one of the worst cases of comic relief I have ever come across.

~Warning: Spoilers~

The absurdities and huh? list:

- Lai Kuan falling in love with the unknown flutist -- for a girl of her intelligence, she is rather narrow-minded. Why? When she first mistakes Tit Muk Ee as the flutist of her dreams, she so easily falls for him. Then later she discovers that it really is Wong Po Siu Wah instead and she starts to have doubts and decides she doesn't really like Tit Muk Ee after all. That sudden change from like to don't like, was well, too sudden for my liking!

- Everybody except for Tit Muk Ee was too dumb or stupid to realize that Meng Lai Kuan was actually a woman in men's clothes! ~shrug~ maybe people were more gullible then...and yea, she does look better as a man, but there were so many times and so many reasons for them to start suspecting!

- Wong Po Siu Wah buying the fact that Meng Lai Kuan has a mole and therefore Meng Lai Kuan's female 'cousin' who looks so much like her is a different person.

- Wong Po Siu Wah's father forcing his own son to marry Lau Yin Yuk to repay her kindness towards them.

- The Empress Dowager buying out the palace officials by making them agree to her plan that the royal scholar had been the real Lai Ming Tong after all and not Meng Lai Kuan.

- The Empress had committed suicide and the royal physician had already pronounced her dead. We even see the burn of the rope on her neck! Then she suddenly wakes up and all is well? Does that mean the Empress, the royal physician and the Empress Dowager were all in it together? ~scratches head~

- When Futt Gor Chek's wife asked to be allowed to die with her husband, why didn't Ying Suet say anything? All she did was stand there and cry. One would think since she owed them her life, she would have been willing to die with them. It made me feel she was rather ungrateful and cold-hearted.

- Lai Kuan refusing to marry Wong Po Siu Wah because he was already married to Lau Yin Yuk. But then, all it needed was for one letter from Lau Yin Yuk saying that she was running away in order for Lai Kuan and Siu Wah to live happily ever after. Wong Po Siu Wah and Lau Yin Yuk were married after all even though they didn't consummate the marriage. So does this mean he divorces her? If he didn't, then I'm surprised that Lai Kuan goes with him because she did say that she would never share her husband with anyone.

- The ending with different scenes of Wong Po Siu Wah and Meng Lai Kuan together. What was that all about? Did I miss something?

The "What happened to the rest?" list
Weng Lan and Ah Song Gor
Weng Lan very obviously liked Ah Song Gor but I didn't get the feeling that it was mutual. He finally finds out she's female when Tit Muk Ee tells him but later we see that he seems to have forgotten when he meets up with Weng Lan again. It takes some probing by Weng Lan before it clicks -- "Ah! Chuk Ying Doi!" he says. Weng Lan bursts out in excitement and that was it. We are not told what happens after. So, did they eventually get together?

Ying Suet and Lai Ming Tong
Since she was 'married' to the Lai Ming Tong impersonated by Lai Kuan, does this mean she is the real Lai Ming Tong's wife by law? She seems to be rather fond of the real Lai Ming Tong although it isn't really said. Do they end up together or what?

Lau Yin Yuk
She runs away. Where, we don't know. And nobody seems to care. What a sad, pitiful girl…

Lau Yin Yuk's father and brother
We know their lives were spared and they were not exiled when Wong Po Siu Wah married Lau Yin Yuk. But what happened after? They seemed to have vanished into thin air just like that - they were not even present at the wedding!

Lai Kuan's brother and the bandit queen
I assume these two eventually got married, had loads of kids and lived happily ever after, bickering away like how a loving couple should…

You've commented on almost everything but the story. What about it? What about it? What else is there to say? The story is entertaining, the pace is fast and light-hearted, very enjoyable, highly amusing. Sometimes bordering on absurdity but bearable all the same. Expect a lot of laughs, for you'll be sure to get loads of them. Although I didn't like the ending very much as it did leave a lot of questions unanswered.

Would I recommend this series?
Definitely. Most definitely. This is probably one of the more enjoyable series to come out of TVB of late.

How do I rate it?
I liked it. It was charming, it was entertaining, it was funny. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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