What do you call a film that features three-dimensional beheadings, countless veiled money shots, kitschy romantic montages, in-your-face flying mule dicks, and eyeball-busting, bouncing boobs? It's the big-screen equivalent of a cheap mixed bag of fun-size Hershey's chocolate bars — lots of short-lived thrills and variety that make you smile even as your stomach churns.
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, a Hong Kong film that was banned in mainland China and is currently screening at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, tracks the sexual exploits of Wei Yangsheng (Hiro Hayama). Based on the classical novel The Carnal Prayer Mat, the movie follows Wei, a young scholar during the Ming Dynasty, who marries young, beautiful Yuxiang (Leni Lan). He eagerly takes his new, soft-skinned wife to bed, only to discover he can't keep an erection for more than a few seconds. In other words, he's a three-pump chump.
Because erectile dysfunction pills were not yet prominent in the days of the Ming Dynasty, Wei takes extreme measures to increase his vertical endurance. His studies are conducted in the Tower of Ultimate Bliss, a brothel run by the Prince of Ning. This house of ill repute is reminiscent of Pinocchio's Pleasure Island — right down to the jackass-like braying of the milky-skinned women copulating or being otherwise serviced.
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy
Starring Hiro Hayama, Leni Lan, and Saori Hara. Directed by Christopher Sun Lap Key. 129 minutes. Not rated, but no one under 17 admitted. Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 786-385-9689; gablescinema.com. Tickets cost $9 to $13.
In this den of carnal indulgence, we meet a variety of both human and animal oddities that are often not quite what they seem. Some have thinly hidden violent demeanors. Others bend gender in extreme and ludicrous ways that made this reviewer laugh to the brink of puking.
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While Wei undergoes coitus classes under the cruel tutelage of a malevolent whorehouse overlord, his wife — whom we've all forgotten about by now thanks to a barrage of skin-slapping scenes — gets understandably upset. They separate and begin wandering down individual wayward sexual paths.
For Wei, the journey entails an attempt to replace one of his sexual organs with that of a large quadruped. The ensuing harebrained surgery at the hands of an Asian version of a disabled Cheech and Chong is the hilarious high point of the flick.
Consequently, the remaining 40 minutes become a little tedious. The second half, with a larger slice of gratuitous kung fu-fueled violence, makes feeble attempts at serious drama. There is even an awkwardly inserted and puzzling moral involving rape and an unfortunate monk.
Although as fortifying as junk food, Sex and Zen is a worthwhile curiosity for its surprisingly beautiful set design and costumes (in the few scenes where clothes are worn) and effective use of 3-D. It definitely makes an entertaining late-night outing with a few lighthearted friends. Expect pretty pictures, silly sounds, and an attention-deficit-driven plot, all wrapped in a baffling ethical lesson, and you'll leave having gotten what you paid for.