Saturday, 20 April 2013

Shanghai Kiss (3½ Stars)

In my post on "Overboard" I stated the rules for a romantic comedy. This film is a slight variation of the rules, in that the boy and the girl are switched. i.e. "Boy meets girl", "The boy doesn't like the girl, but as time goes on he grows to like her", etc. As soon as you've made that switch in your head the film is predictable.

Liam is a Chinese American whose parents emigrated to America shortly before his birth. His mother died on his sixth birthday, and he despises his father because of his drunkenness. He moves to Los Angeles to make it in the film business, but he can't even get a job making commercials. On a bus he meets Adelaide, a schoolgirl who falls in love with him at first sight. He resists her advances because of her age -- he's 28, she's 16 -- but they nevertheless become friends. She refers to him as her boyfriend, but he insists that it's platonic.

Things change when his grandmother dies and he inherits her house in Shanghai. He travels to China to sell the house, but then decides to remain there. He meets a mysterious woman called Micki and falls in love with her despite the secrets she's keeping. But of course, by this point connoisseurs of romantic comedies have already realised that he must return to Adelaide eventually; that's the rules!

Hayden Panettiere shines as the jailbait schoolgirl Adelaide. Jailbait in America, at least. In England and most other countries she would be old enough. I was especially impressed by the performance of Ken Leung as Liam. I didn't remember him, but a quick check in IMDB has told me he's appeared in quite a few films that I've seen, including "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "Red Dragon". I was pleased to see James Hong as Liam's father, and I was disappointed that he only had a very small role. He has appeared in over 150 films and 200 television series since 1955, but I've only noticed him once before, in his terrific performance in "The Idol". He seems destined to be a great unknown actor.

I haven't rated the film any higher because the romance itself is played down. Hayden Panettiere has too little screen time while Ken Leung is on the other side of the world. It's more interesting to watch it as a portrayal of how a young man is struggling to get back in touch with his ethnic roots. I can't really relate to the film, but I'll probably come back and watch it again a year from now.

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