In the Chinese import "Magic to Win," a bumbling university professor is also secretly a wizard of water, one of a select group whose powers also extend to gold, wood, fire and earth. It's awkward enough when he accidentally transfers his abilities to an unwitting coed, but then another wizard (evil, of course) arrives looking to harness the power of all five elements.
At times "Magic to Win" flirts with being a playful "X-Men" story that just stays at the Academy for Weird Teenagers, sort of a Superhero Valley High that mixes light teen melodrama with explosions and flying what-nots, some demographic mutant created to appeal to girls and boys in equal measure for maximum furtive movie-theater hand-holding opportunities.
Alas, the film comes nowhere close to living up to that delightful premise. In fact, it more or less throws it away, never figuring out how to even start properly combining the story threads of the wizards and the students. So much goes unexplained — the origins of the wizards' powers, what the kids already know, for starters — that it's easy to think there are missing subtitles.
Director Wilson Yip's earlier films "Ip Man" and "Ip Man 2" also might have been wildly uneven, but at least they satisfied a basic craving for good action. "Magic to Win" turns up as a real loser.
"Magic to Win." No MPAA rating. In Cantonese with English and Chinese subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. At the AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park.