A real guarantee of quality!
Despite the good results of Chinese Odyssey (relatively… it was far from being a big success on Chow's scale) or Ah Fai The Dumb, Athena's move to comedy under Chu Yen Ping's leadership didn't really make any spark. She was still considered a minor star, mostly known for her beauty than for her professional abilities. The next important move of her career happened around 1998 when she joined Wong Jing's stables. After working repeatedly with Chu Yen Ping, moving under Wong Jing's leadership was almost a promotion! Despite the very uneven quality of the works of HK's King of bad taste (both as a producer, scriptwriter or director), this change would prove to be a profitable one for the actress. Under his lead, she would gain access to a variety of fields, always as the leading actress, and she would have a minimum guarantee of success at the box office thanks to Wong's sure knowledge of HK audience. This was not exactly the perfect environment she could have dream of in order to strengthen her acting skills and prove her value, but in the context of a grave industry crisis, she would get the best of it.
Welcome to Wong Jing's world!
Wong is quick to capitalize on the little reputation Athena Chu has built up in comedies and put her in one of his own called Tricky King. Even if he didn't direct it, Tricky King was 100% Wong Jing! An exploitation of the trickster genre he created 7 years ago with Tricky Brains, this Aman Cheung (the usual “yes man” of Wong) features Nat Chan and Eric Kot as professional jokers hired to humiliate people. Athena's part was not much different as the ones she had in Chu Yen Ping 's movies. She's the centre of attraction of Eric Kot's character and was mostly used for her perfect plastic (from her multiple dress to her swimsuit, she has rarely looked so pretty). No room for improvement there especially as she wasn't even told it would be a comedy! Still, the sheer silliness of the enterprise (Eric Kot lost it entirely) and the very high level of good-looking-ness (Athena of course but also Lee Ann and Sherming Yiu) would guarantee the viewers a minimal pleasure.
Wong Jing can't certainly be criticize for his taste in actresses
Athena is…Sandra Ng!
Love and Sex of Eastern Hollywood was another comedy helmed by Wong Jing and featuring Athena the same year.. This production, once again directed by Aman Cheung, gave a cinematic shape to the great many people news from local gossipy magazines. We are then told the “real romantic” stories of such actors/actresses as Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, Sandra Ng or Kenny Bee. Despite its dubious subject, this third Aman Cheung effort proved to be quite captivating and entertaining. This was due to a smarter script than usual, full of local references, and an adequate cast. As for Athena herself, she was quite strangely given the part of Sandra Ng! Why such a choice from Wong Jing? Nobody knows, not even Athena herself! Still, she did a good job, fleshing a character which could have easily turned as a stupid parody. Two scenes stood out: One in which she was in tears during a radio show, a good way to remind us of her dramatic capability, and a passionate kissing scene with co-star Monica Chan. A quite sexy scene considering her image of young innocent girl but that was part of a recent, wider strategy to transform her sex-appeal into box-office magnet…