No lie, but I’ve watched Big Trouble in Little China at least 50 times over the course of my lifetime. At least 50 times! Aside from Apocalypse Now, it's my favorite movie of all time. And the thing is, it's the kind of movie that only gets better the more times that you watch it. You know how some kids grew up watching The Goonies with Stranger Things' Sean Aston? Well, Big Trouble in Little China is my The Goonies. It's my The Sandlot, or my The NeverEnding Story, or my [insert any decades-old movie that my generation always seems to talk about when discussing our childhoods].
In fact, at least half of the 50 viewings that I mentioned earlier came from my childhood. Big Trouble in Little China and Howard the Duck (which, almost starred Robin Williams) used to play on TV all the time back when I was growing up, and I would watch them whenever they came on. But, unlike Howard the Duck, which I find nigh-unwatchable today, I actually appreciate Big Trouble in Little China a whole lot more as an adult. And, upon re-watching it for the umpteenth time, I had a few thoughts that I definitely didn't have when I was younger. So, hop in the Pork Chop Express with me, and let's go for a ride down memory lane.
Oh, and some minor spoilers up ahead for a pretty old movie.
Jack Burton Is The Second Banana In His Own Story
One thing I didn't realize as a child when I used to watch Big Trouble in Little China is that it's meant to be a comedy. It didn't occur to me back then that Jack Burton looked silly in his climactic battle with Lo-Pan wearing bright red lipstick, or, that I was supposed to laugh when Jack let out a battle cry and shot the ceiling, only for it to fall on his head and knock him out. None of that used to make me laugh as a child since I used to take this movie seriously.
But, as an adult, I definitely get the humor. Jack Burton only THINKS he's the hero in this story, as the real hero is Jack's friend, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun). Wang Chi is an expert martial artist, and he basically saves the day with every opportunity that he gets (until, that is, Jack has his "It's all in the reflexes" moment with Lo-Pan toward the end of the movie).
Remember how in the Green Hornet movie (which looks to be getting a reboot) Seth Rogan's character thought that he was the hero when it was really his sidekick, Kato, all along? Well, the same thing is happening here, but on a much better level.
James Hong Steals Every Scene That He's In, And I Even Think About Him When He's Not On The Screen
James Hong, who you can now find in the excellent, Everything Everywhere All At Once (which you should still see if you haven’t yet) plays probably my favorite character in the entire movie as David Lo-Pan. Back when I was a kid, I was terrified of this character (almost as terrified as I was of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker)! No lie, I actually used to cover my eyes when Lo-Pan would shoot light out of his mouth since I thought that what was happening to Jack was going to happen to me.
As an adult, I find James Hong hilarious in the role, and I often wonder what he’s doing while Jack is having his adventure. My friends and I always quote lines from his speech with Jack in the wheelchair, and one of my litmus tests for acquiring new friends is if they know what I’m referencing when I say, “Indeed!” It took me re-watching the movie as an adult several times to truly appreciate the greatness of James Hong's performance. But, now that I have, I’m really glad that I do!
I'm Just Realizing That Victor Wong And James Hong Are In Two Of My Favorite Movies From When I Was A Child
Speaking of James Hong, remember how I mentioned Howard the Duck as one of the movies from my childhood that I used to watch over and over again? Well, another movie that I always used to watch as a kid was The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy. Seriously, Chandler Jarrell is one of the funniest Eddie Murphy characters of all time. Watch it again.
Well, I don't know how I just realized this now, but James Hong, who plays Lo-Pan in Big Trouble in Little China, plays Doctor Hong in The Golden Child. And, Victor Wong, who plays Egg Shen-Lo-Pan's magical rival in Big Trouble in Little China, plays a character called the Old Goupa in The Golden Child. Both characters are essential to the story, and it just blows my mind that I'm just now realizing that both of these immensely talented actors (R.I.P., Victor Wong) are in two of my favorite movies from when I was a kid. So cool!
Kim Cattrall Is A Lot Funnier Than I Remember Her Being In This Movie
Sex and the City’s own Kim Cattrall plays Gracie Law (my daughter’s middle name is actually Gracie because of this character), a tough as nails lawyer who just wants to get the truth about Lo-Pan. Well, back when I used to watch this movie as a kid, I wasn't impressed with her character.
Now, I can't get enough of her. For one thing, she always puts Jack Burton in his place every chance that she gets, i.e. "You should try standing downwind where I am. It's Miller Time." and two, her delivery is classic. I never watched Sex and the City (Sorry!), but if she was anywhere near as funny as she is in this movie, then I wish I had.
The Character Who Plays Rain Only Has One Line Of Dialogue, And Lightning Literally Has None
The Three Storms are probably the third most iconic characters in this movie after Jack Burton and Lo-Pan, and for good reason. Anybody who's ever seen this movie and played Mortal Kombat has likely noticed the similarity between Lightning in this movie, and the god of thunder, Raiden, in Mortal Kombat.
Both characters are awesome, but here's the thing; of The Three Storms, only Thunder really has much of a personality. Rain literally only has one line in the entire movie ("You are nowhere") and Lightning doesn't have a single line at all. For some reason, I always thought that all three of them had a lot to say throughout the film. But, I guess all they had to say was through their actions, which are pretty badass, if I might say so myself.
Jack Burton Doesn't Want To Break Gracie Law's Heart At The End, And I Think That's Really Sweet
And lastly, one thing that I never understood as a child is that, despite Jack Burton's and Gracie Law's chemistry, they don't go off together, happily ever after, at the end of the movie. Back when I was a child, I was conditioned to think that all movie characters got together in the end.
Not so in Big Trouble in Little China, though, as Gracie seems to have warmed up to Jack by the end, but he seems to have cooled off on her. In truth, you can tell in the last moments that he knows that they wouldn't work out in the end, and he'd rather not even start a relationship if it’s only going to go up in flames. It shows growth in his character, and I appreciate that as an adult.
Do you love Big Trouble in Little China as much as I do? For more news on other movies that are worth re-watching (like Cape Fear!) make sure to stop by here often.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.