So, how do you top the surprise hit of Table for Six <飯戲攻心> which went on to become the third highest-grossing Hong Kong movie ever made? The predominantly single-location comedy, which was released during the Mid-Autumn Festival in 2022, amassed a whopping HK$77.3 million (!).
Part of the first movie’s success lies in Sunny Chan’s knack for witty dialogue and above all, Dayo Wong’s subtle comic timing, even though the rest of the ensemble cast is just as good. Frankly, I always thought Table for Six <飯戲攻心> serves better as a one-off and a sequel is unnecessary.
But when the first movie made this much, the studio inevitably wanted to green-lit a sequel. And so, here we are — the gang’s back including Louis Cheung, Stephy Tang, Ivana Wong, Lin Min-Chen and Peter Chan Charm-Man. Except for the lead actor Dayo Wong, who is nowhere to be seen in this highly-anticipated sequel.
Sunny Chan, who also wrote the screenplay, doesn’t abandon Dayo Wong’s Steve character as his name is frequently mentioned throughout the movie. And yet, not having him physically appear in the sequel sure makes a lot of difference. He’s the heart and soul that unites and strengthens the first movie and I have to say his absence is sorely missed.
This leaves Steve’s younger half-brother, Bernard (Louis Cheung) to take on the mantle as we learn he is now running a business as a wedding planner alongside Monica (Stephy Tang), Lung (Peter Chan Charm-Man), Josephine (Ivana Wong) and Meow (Lin Min-Chen). They do whatever is necessary to promote their business from social media exposure to staging a bogus marriage proposal to attract media coverage.
We also have a will-they-or-won’t-they-finally-marry angle between longtime partners Bernard and Monica as well as Lung and Josephine. Meow, in the meantime, drowned her sorrow after Steve left her abruptly.
Now, what’s a sequel with more additional cast? Chan introduces more family members, namely Uncle Six (Tse Kwan-Ho) and Josephine’s respective mother and grandmother played by Michelle Yim and Helena Law Lan. Then, there’s a famous pop star idol named Mark Gor (Jeffrey Ngai), who is more than just a singer.
Table for Six 2 <飯戲攻心2> even expands its single-set apartment to larger locations, both indoors and outdoors — all lavishly designed with more colours and whatnots since the story takes place during wedding ceremonies and dinners. With a bigger budget this time around, Chan does a good job levelling up the production values and costume designs.
But the sequel’s 133-minute length tends to overstay its welcome, particularly during the protracted third act that feels like it goes on forever. Chan is too preoccupied with the elaborate wedding setups and loud, yet petty shenanigans surrounding the conflicting uncles. Except for Tse Kwan-Ho’s refreshingly comedic turn for a change as Uncle Six, most new cast additions — I forgot to mention Jennifer Yu, Wu Fung, Ho Kai-Wa and Renci Yeung — are merely glorified familiar faces to attract more audiences and fans.
While the first movie did a great job exploring sibling rivalry, family dynamics and love triangles, the sequel gets lost easily amidst all the flashy visuals. Chan’s commitment to living up to the vibrant hor sui pin (Lunar New Year films) vibe is understandable but then again, the first movie’s unique charm lies in his contrary approach. I’m not sure why he chose to fall back to typical how-loud-and-colourful-can-one-go storytelling in the spirit of hor sui pin.
Not surprisingly, the comedy is a hit-and-miss affair and frankly, most of them try too hard to score some laughs. There are repetitive gags over Meow’s “Cantonese is hard to figure out” bits, cringey moments of Mark Gor’s showboating and not to forget, the overreliance on movie montage songs, making me feel as if Chan rather gives us broad storytelling than something shrewd seen in the first movie.
Table for Six 2 <飯戲攻心2> works best in some of its individual scenes. Chan hasn’t completely lost his directorial prowess with affecting moments revolving around Bernard, Monica, Lung and Josephine. The sequel also emphasises the importance of family values and Chan doesn’t forget to incorporate the intimate portrait of food offerings, notably Josephine’s re-creation of a long-lost dish consisting of roasted stuffed pigeon with shark fin.