The Sorcerer and the White Snake

Visually unspectacular and emotionally stillborn, The Sorcerer and the White Snake fails as both a fantasy and a romance. A Chinese Ghost Story director Siu-Tung Ching brings little of the wit and charm of his earlier successes to this latest melodrama. Demon-hunting priest Xu Xian (Raymond Lam) loves snake demon Susu (Eva Huang), but doesn't know she's a demon. All Xu Xian knows is that she saved his life when he was about to drown, and that he, after accepting the kiss of life, is enthralled by her. Despite Abbot Fahai's (Jet Li) protests, Xu Xian insists on pursuing this affair while fighting chintzy-looking demons. Neither aspect of Xu Xian's bifurcated story is especially moving since the film's creators take no time to develop his personality. The clunky action mostly revolves around uninspired wire-fu choreography: Monks fly around while flailing their arms as hordes of CGI creatures gather around and then do nothing. Xu Xian and Susu's romantic scenes are similarly reliant on breathless promises that Lam and Huang deliver with great pouting gusto, and little less. And all the while, poor Li glowers with what looks like cramp-causing intensity in the film's corner, trapping demons with little effort, and even less satisfaction. Simon Abrams

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