Duke of Mt. Deer

Reviewed by: Moinllieon

October 26, 2007

Rating: four

There is something that just seems right when satirical director/producer Wong Jing takes on the ultimate satire: "Duke of Mount Deer" (Lu Din Ji). "Duke of Mount Deer 2000" is Wong Jing's second effort to adapt this classical story by Jin Yong. His first effort was a pair of movies in the early 90s call "The Royal Tramp" starring Stephen Chow as the unforgettable Wei Xiaobao. While the movies were based on the book by Jin Yong, they focus much more on making fun of popular movies at the time, such as "Swordsman 2." As a result, there were much detractions from the original story line, albeit not as bad as "The Swordsman" trilogy.

While there are still some slapstick moments, such as references to Jin Yong, "Young Hero Fong Sai Yuk", and "Huan Zhu Ge Ge" in the actual dialogue of the story, the TV series tuned down the ridiculous slapstick antics of the movie into a more dramatic show. The main reason behind this is the fact that Dicky Cheung stars as Wei Xiaobao rather than Stephen Chow. "Duke of Mount Deer 2000" follows a plot that is remarkably similar to the plot of the 2 movies, resulting in an story that does not quite link together as well as other adaptations. The reason for this is that the movies had to resolve their plots, therefore when linked together, the stories seem to have little connection. Of course, there was much that the movies left out, and for plot points in which the movies left out, "Duke of Mount Deer 2000" follows the original story closer than the plot points which the movies covered. Overall, be warned, this adaptations varies more from the original story than any other adaptation of Jin Yong novels.

One of the main reasons that "Duke of Mount Deer" is so much admired is because of the character of Wei Xiaobao. Wong Jing changed many things about the character of Xiaobao including some of the most fundamental morals of the character, yet he still managed to very lovable character despite the changes. The main reason is because Dicky Cheung did such wonderful job of portraying a different Wei Xiaobao than the one that we are used to. Dicky's Xiaobao actually has guts, he is rarely scared throughout the entire story. Also, the story itself tries to justify Xiaobao's amazing luck with women, it tries to make it seem that he deserves these women; a futile task if you ask me, but the story nevertheless attempts this. The story actually has the girls follow Xiaobao around for a long time, during which he goes to hell and back for each one of them at least once, before he finally marries them "in name and in action." This, of course, gives Xiaobao some honor that he never ever, ever came close to having in the original story. And also, what is with Dicky Cheung's characters and their moms? The moms of the character that Dicky plays always features prominently in his stories, as it does in this series and in "Young Hero Fong Sai Yuk." Is there a reason behind that one?

As for the many wives that makes Wei Xiaobao the luckiest man on earth, this story once again tinkered with the characters to what it thinks is best. They left the ones that were at least fairly well developed in the novel as they were: Xuang Er, Ah Ke, Mu Jian Ping, and Fang Yi. But as for the other wives, major tinkering took place. Madame Hong is replaced by Long Er, who is the fake Empress as well as the adopted daughter of Hong An Tong. Zeng Rou, who is the least developed of the wives in the novel, was taken out completely and replaced with Xiao Jing Yu (Little Gold Fish) for no apparent reason whatsoever than to apparently make Xiaobao even nicer. The biggest change is in the character of Jian Ning Ge Ge, the princess. In the novel, she was kind of a useless wife that Xiaobao married only because she was pregnant. However, this version made her into one of the main characters of the story, on par with Kang Xi (maybe it has to do with the fact that Ruby Lin was cast as her). Normally, I am against such dramatic changes to the original; but in this case, I liked this version of Jian Ning much better (again probably because of Ruby Lin).

Now for the cast. The cast in general did a very good job, Dicky was good as Xiaobao with a backbone, Ruby Lin and Athena Chu stood out as Jian Ning and Ah Ke respectively. There is really no weak performances, anything out of character could just as easily be blamed on the radically changed story as an interpretation by actors. The really weak points of this series are the same as in most 90s series. Among these, the one that is most painfully obvious are the costumes. The costumes did not show that the low "budget-ness" of the show nor were they drab, they were just plain bad looking, from Xiaobao's weird-ass straw hat to Xuang Er's backpack to Jian Ning's butterfly headpiece, all just did not look right. The producers of the show should have at least done something about that, surely they could not think those costumes looked good, could they? Also, the fighting in the series is lacking, full of camera swooshes and bad special effects. I guess it is more forgivable to have bad fighting in "Duke of Mount Deer" than any other series simply because the story itself is a satire of the whole genera. Another thing is choice of location for filming, while they look nice, they are the exactly same as "Young Hero Fong Sai Yuk." This is a very minor flaw that I only noticed because I watched the 2 shows back to back.

Do not expect the all happy sappy ending that one normally associates with "Duke of Mount Deer," I guess Wong Jing couldn't let Xiaobao off that easily as Jin Yong did. If you are the emotional type, keep tissues handy come the last episodes. All in all, despite the weaknesses and the deviations I pointed out, this show was still very very enjoyable. It posesses a certain charm that pulls you in and does not let you go until you finish. If you watch this show for a great adaptation of "Duke of Mount Deer," you will come away disappointed. If you watch this show to be entertained, you will come away loving it, like I did.

Screenshots: (CTS Copyrighted)

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