Thursday, August 12, 2021

Tao da liang da xian shen wei (1988)

... aka: 桃太郎大顯神威
... aka: 新桃太郎2
... aka: 驅魔童
... aka: Child of Peach 2
... aka: Magic of Spell
... aka: Magic of Stell
... aka: Momotaro Shows Off His Power
... aka: Qu mo tong
... aka: Shin Momotaro 2
... aka: Tao tai lang da xian shen wei
... aka: Xin dai tao liang

Directed by:
Chung-Hsing Chao

Usually sequels are a marked downgrade from the original, but this sequel to the previous year's CHILD OF PEACH (1987) is thankfully about on par and every bit as bizarre, entertaining and fun! Peach Boy (again played by young actress Hsiao-Lao Lin) has managed to stamp out most of the evil in the world and now merrily spends his days feeding orphaned baby birds, saving bunnies from hunters and rescuing children with lazy mothers who are unwilling to wade into 20 feet of water to save their drowning offspring. However, a small group of evil survivors are congregating in a castle called The Devil's Palace, where they plot to find a way to "control the human beings." Led by a powerful, old white-haired devil-sorcerer (Shan Chang), who spends much of his time lounging in a giant bubbling blood bath hoping to regenerate himself and has no issue zapping his own followers with his laser finger when they piss him off, the group have their sights set on terminating Peach Boy, who's the only one currently getting in their way of world domination.

We then meet a well-intentioned idiot (Pao-Ming Ku) who is not named in the English subs but is apparently called Yat-Tuan in the original version so that's what I'm calling him. Despite having a rough childhood, constantly getting bullied and being a societal outcast, he appears blessed with at least some good dumb luck. After making his way through the woods to a graveyard, Yat-Tuan somehow manages to defeat two zombies and a walking skeleton in such an accidental manner that he doesn't realize two zombies and a walking skeleton were even ever around him. The orphaned Yat-Tuan basically worships Peach Boy and, despite being quite a bit older and with only experience as a puppeteer, is desperate for his hero to become his new master so he can teach him how to be brave and fight back.

Yat-Tuan finally tracks Peach and her now-widowed elderly mother (Mei Fang Yu, also returning from the first film) down, and does everything in his power to kiss up to them: running baths, cleaning, serving, massaging, etc. They take him into their home, though he'll have to overcome his cowardice and build up his self-esteem in order to prove himself, which, oddly enough, he never actually does!

Meanwhile, the old sorcerer is getting impatient because his daily blood baths have not been restoring his youth. His black magician assistant (Ching-Wei Shen) suggests they instead try "1000 virgin's blood and a magic stuff" to restore him, so the sorcerer sends his army out to slaughter villagers and kidnap their children. And, in case that fails, the magician picks up a few pointers from the locals, who use pinwheels around a cave to attract the legendary, thousand-year-old Ginseng Boy, who pops out of the ground after it's shot by a yellow beam from the moon (?!) The magician hopes that adding the dancing ginseng root will restore his master's youth.

Parents start showing up at Peach Boy's home begging for him to help find their kids, though seeing how they're never mentioned again or seen after this scene, we can safely assume they ended up in the blood bath! Either way, Peach Boy is dragged back into the action, which becomes personal after they attack his home, kill his mother and leave him and Yat-Tuan for dead; who are only spared from death because Peach Boy's large magical peach pops out of the well to make a surprise and very-well-timed cameo. The two are able to recuperate from their injuries and are later joined by Peach Boy's monkey (Yu-Ta Tsu), doggy (Chi-Chiang Chen) and chicken (Yu-jiu Yang) friends, who are never shown in full animal form this time out but still have a few tricks up their sleeve.

The sorcerer (who is just called “Devil” or “Elder” in the English subtitles) has four main minions who do most of his dirty work. Aside from the aforementioned magician, there's also a green, ogre-looking dude who has a mini-bazooka that blows stuff up, a muscleman called Stone (Hsiung Yang), who uses a boulder as a weapon and is able to transform into a red-eyed rock monster with razor teeth and Miss White (Li-Chang Peng); an ugly, white-haired, white-faced ghost / witch.

If this is harmed by anything, it's recycling too many plot points / gags from the earlier film, including having Peach Boy yet again trying to get revenge after his parents are killed and Yat-Tuan basically being a copycat of the previous Knight Melon character right down to attracting the attention of the ugly witch, who's again played by a man in drag. This also does retain some of the toilet humor and childish slapstick (like crotch hits and an ass getting set on fire) from the first film. Despite that, this feels much darker in tone, which is probably hard to avoid considering the main baddie spends half his screen-time lounging in a giant pool of children's blood!

This also dishes out an extraordinary amount of punishment to the hero, who gets the absolutely snot beaten out of him numerous times yet still emerges victorious during the truly spectacular final 20 minutes. It features well-choreographed and clever fight scenes, impressive acrobatics, wacky special effects heavy on the lasers and a surprising amount of gore for a kids movie, including an eye gouging, ears ripped off and a sword shoved down a throat. While this whole scene takes place on just one set, there's also some nice outdoor scenery thrown in earlier on.

When I was writing this review, I noticed that I kept referring to Peach Boy by female pronouns since he's played by actress Lin. Despite attempts to "butch her up," Lin looks much more like a young adult female than the preteen boy she's playing but it hardly even matters. She's basically impossible to dislike in the role; skilled at action scenes, extremely charming and very good when they give her more dramatic moments. Mei Fang Yu, as the mother, is also a delight while she's around, and most of the rest of the cast are extremely enthusiastic about what they're doing. The only person I wasn't too enamored with was Ku in the more blatantly comedic role, though that's not really the actor's fault. It's just that the mugging oaf has already been done to death in these kind of films and too much time is wasted setting this character up for a redemption / growth arc that never comes.

Considering the popularity of these titles in certain areas of Asia, it's quite surprising this has yet to receive any kind of legit, remastered DVD or Blu-ray release. There were however plenty of VHS and VCD releases (including a widescreen print with English subtitles) for it, though none here in America. While technically a part of the series, the Lin vehicle Feng huang wang zi / Magic Warriors (1989) was released as Child of Peach 3, or Shin Momotaro 3 as it's called in Japan).

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