I came across Flirting in the Air (唐伯虎衝上雲霄) entirely by accident — the film shows up the Google search results for Triumph in the Skies, which I had originally intended to watch and review. Triumph is a highly successful Hong Kong television series based on the lives of Cathay Pacific pilots, and evidently Flirting in the Air is a parody of it.
That being said, I’m rather glad I stumbled across Flirting in the Air as it provided an insane amount of comic relief from the serious and dreary tragi-romances I am known to review. Hong Kong comedy star Chapman To stars as “Captain Cool”, a Hong Kong airliner captain who is known for womanizing everyone from air hostesses to his boss’ wife. Dada Chan from Lan Kwai Fong complements Chapman as the beautiful, sultry object of his desires from his childhood, Shelly.
Flirting in the Skies quickly descends into absurdity after its first few minutes, which might otherwise lead the audience to believe it’s a romantic comedy set in an airliner. Though the movie begins on an airplane, the flight deck crew of Captain Cool and his two sidekicks, the obese Sam (Lam Tze-Chung) and effeminate Guy (Dominic Ho), are transported back to Ming Dynasty China. Captain Cool and his crew find themselves serving a wealthy noble household, where the da xiao jie (loosely translated as “princess of the family”) appears to be nearly identical in appearance to his first love Shelly. After this, numerous sexual jokes (but none descending to the level of pornography) permeate the rest of the film as Captain Cool and his sidekicks must defend the lady servants of the household from the womanizing master, while preventing another high-ranking, powerful noble from having the household killed.
The comedic performance put on by Chapman To, complemented by the female cast of the movie (composed of numerous models and B-list actresses), make Flirting in the Skies a great watch. Full of humor and jokes at every turn, ranging from the relatively benign battle of wits and quoting of literature to sexual jokes and romantic hijinks, I found myself laughing for two hours last night. Flirting in the Skies makes absolutely no attempt to be creative, intellectual, or artistic, nor is it particularly politically correct — I am sure that many a social justice warrior would balk at seeing even the first minute of the film and would probably start having convulsions if they were forced to sit through it. My favorite scene was when Captain Cool described how he went from a nerdy kid to the Captain Cool he is today — “at age five I fell in love with flying airlines; at age six I fell in love with ‘hitting airplanes’ [Chinese slang for masturbating].”
That said, Flirting in the Skies managed to walk the fine line between the hilarious and abjectly offensive rather well — any further steps towards the obscene would’ve likely awarded it censorship in mainland China, and probably sent it off to the category of erotic films. Flirting in the Skies thus was particularly refreshing as a film that dared to bring back rude and offensive humor amidst the comparatively tame cinema landscape of the Sinosphere.
Flirting in the Skies (Chinese: 唐伯虎衝上雲霄)—Hong Kong. Directed by Aman Cheung Man. First released August 2014. Running time 1hr 30mins. Starring Chapman To, Dada Chan, Lam Tze Chung, Dominic Ho, Ben Cheung, Connie Man, Jim Chim.