Within the top 3 best-selling Chinese movie during the Spring festival holidays, two of them were featured by Mr. Shen Teng. —- they are Pegasus and the Crazy Aliens.

In the past few years, Shen Teng has become the driving force for audiences to enter the cinema, as well as a milestone actor of Chinese comedy.

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Shen Teng — More than A Comedian  

Shen Teng graduated from the Drama Performance Department of the P.L.A Academy of Art. In 2001,  the sitcom was flourishing at that time. Shen Teng, a student, made a guest appearance in the hit drama The Northeast Family, playing the hero Niu Xiaowei’s good friend Ma Erhu.

Despite his not-so-impressive appearance, as soon as he starts talking in the drama, the audience immediately notices his existence. After graduation, Shen Teng chose to join the Mahua FunAge team(开心麻花) and became a drama actor. He was bold, intelligent and energetic. The second year he was promoted to director position and began to direct his own plays.

Shen Teng in a Mahua FunAge play

Shen Teng in a Mahua FunAge play

But the initial box office was not ideal until the release of Somali Pirates in 2009, and Mahua FunAge gradually gains popularity. During his busiest years in drama, Shen Teng has performed more than 1000 plays back to back, working without ceasing except Mondays.

The influence of drama is limited. Shen Teng also tried to get involved in the field of TV drama during that period. Unfortunately, the result wasn’t great enough. —–Edited from jqknews.com

The rise of Shen Teng was dramatic itself, after the crazy run of movie Goodbye Mr. Loser in 2015, as the main character, he out of nowhere suddenly landed on the iconic spot in China’s entertainment billboards. The miracle continues as most of the movies involves Shen Teng wins great audience feedback and of course, good profits. Shen might be the first comedian that achieved so much in book office. Maybe, he himself is ‘the Crazy Alien’ from ‘Pegasus’.

Pegasus—A Race to Win Everything

If you judge movie Pegasus as an exercise in storytelling, it feels innovative in intent but confusing in practice. During most “comeback” stories, the protagonist grapples with character flaws before experiencing a moment of “rebirth.” This pattern doesn’t exist in Pegasus. The movie starts with main character Zhang Chi (played by Shen Teng) already reborn, with most of his soul searching implied through flashbacks, but never deeply explored. While Zhang must undergo superficial trials like taking a driving test, we see nothing that tests him to the point that he must grow or change as a character.

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In fact, almost every challenge that Zhang Chi encounters gets resolved in a pretty efficient way, thanks to the overuse of deus ex machina. As one notable example, when Zhang Chi’s rally car gets wrecked right before the big race, his top opponent Lin Zhendong (played by Huang Jingyu from Operation Red Sea) suddenly steps in and helps him fix it—no argument nor strings attached.

Furthermore, Pegasus doesn’t provide much depth to Zhang Chi’s motivations, beyond the superficial desire to redeem his status as a top rally driver. For one, Zhang doesn’t appear to have much competitive drive against his supposed rival Lin Zhendong; whatever animus he had towards Lin evaporated during his five year ban, and was replaced by embarrassed deference. Though Lin has many characteristics of a villain (he’s a rich fuerdai in contrast to the humble Zhang Chi), he repeatedly demonstrates selfless benevolence towards Zhang—which makes him even less of a foil, and really hard to hate.

Zhang Chi also has a young adopted son, which could have been another easy source of motivation and character conflict. Yet, Pegasus doesn’t bite on this opportunity either. In many movies, a flawed parent character undergoes epic struggles to win their child’s approval—but in Pegasus, Zhang always has his young son’s approval, and the two have a healthy, loving, and frankly boring relationship.

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What is also worth mentioning is the director of Pegasus— Han Han, is a real life champion in rally racing. Therefore, the details in Shen Teng’s performance in the movie were well designed through a realistic approach.——edited from cinemaescapist.com

Crazy Alien—A Chinese Style Space Comedy

During the lunar new year holidays, Crazy Alien is leading a packed field at the Chinese box office with the savvy casting of comedy sensation Shen Teng alongside Ning Hao (movie director) regular Huang Bo furthering its appeal. Whether it can hold off rival holiday titles depends on word of mouth but Crazy Alien should handily out-gross Ning’s last smash hit Breakup Buddies (2014) which took $195 million(AUD 276 million) in book office only in China. Despite allocating ample screen time to international cast members, notably Matthew Morrison of Glee fame, overseas prospects should be limited to diaspora audiences.

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The hijinks occur in an unnamed coastal city where Geng Hao (played by comedian Huang Bo) plies his monkey act at a theme park featuring replicas of the world’s landmarks. His mundane existence is interrupted by the arrival of a short, stick-like alien that crashes into his humble residence following a botched intergalactic DNA exchange with selfie-fixated US astronaut Captain Jack Andrews (Morrison). As his monkey has been injured in the debris, Geng takes the alien (voiced by and facially modeled on frequent Ning collaborator Xu Zheng) as a replacement, much to the chagrin of his opportunistic friend Da Fei (played by Shen Teng) who has bigger ideas. The alien seems to comply as Geng trains it to perform on bikes and stilts but sneakily eyes escape opportunities.

Geng’s efforts are paralleled with those of the US government, which is aiming to locate the alien and complete the mission. Spearheaded by careerist agent John Stockton, the team relies on misleading visual communications sent by the alien (which is trapped in a theme park full of imitations of famous places) that send them ricocheting around the globe until they eventually wind up in China.

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The foreign side of the cast gamely throw themselves into the silliness but their enthusiasm can’t overcome the leaden nature of Ning’s sarcasm at the U.S., which come complete with presenting a Trump-like US President (played by Daniel Hugh Kelly). Fortunately, the alien is a fully realized character thanks not only to seamless CGI work supervised by special effects veteran Joel Hynek but a distinctive personality that is alternately sympathetic and spiteful. The perpetually scruffy Huang Bo and the flashily attired Shen Teng are an endearing double act while their inter-actions with the alien range from the rambunctiously amusing to the downright cruel as the visitor gets a crash course in Chinese culture ( rice wine, fire cupping,etc.).

Shortcomings aside, there’s plenty of irreverent fun to be had with a typically percussion-heavy score by ace composer Nathan Wang (in collaboration with Liang Long and Song Nan) making for a suitably energetic accompaniment. ——edited from screendaily.com

We do not know if Shen Teng will end up being a Stan Lee-like entertainment icon in Chinese-speaking world, or he will go after the path of Charles Chaplin and go universal. Either way, the swift rising of Chinese movie industry should take most of the credits as the Chinese sci-fi and comedy movies started gaining ground around the world almost at the same time since 2018.

Edited by Joreal Qian