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Holly Karrol Clark
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Either Chinese pop idol Wang Lee Hom had a breath of inspiration to try to break into the film making business, or music is not bringing in as much dough as he would like. Or perhaps he was feeling bored one day and decided to make a movie about......himself.
Wang Lee Hom writes, directs and stars in what is easily a glorified fan-fiction about himself. Lee plays Du Ming Han, pop idol extraordinaire with an over active imagination and adored by millions. Along with his loyal manager, Joan (played by actress....JOAN Chen), everyday is a routine of performances, evading the paparazzi through the use of disguises and partying at night with his band-mates. One night after giving the Press the slip, Ming's posh Van literally runs into a female music student named Song Xiao Qing. Miraculously unhurt, Xiao Qing checks her "GuZheng" string instrument for damage. This is when Du Ming Han's overactive imagination kicks in as Xiao Qing's tune conjures up images of badly CGI-ed butterflies in his head. Immediately smitten by her, though he claims he is only her music that he is in love with, Du Ming Han and his lead guitarist Wei Zhi Bai track the talented girl to her school. Donning a couple of silly disguises, they enroll in the schools music department so that Ming Han can have the pleasure of hearing Xiao Qing play once again.
As much as Du Ming Han daydreams of flowers, butterflies and beautiful hilltops when he listens to Xian Qing's music, the entire movie is like a wishful daydream of writer/director/main actor Wang Lee Hom. The characters that populate the story are either played too over-the-top for anyone to take seriously, are utterly unlikable or generally lack a certain presence. The first flaw falls on every single side character from the school principle (who happens to be Xiao Qing's father) to even Wei Zhi Bai. They are all played for laughs basically, and nothing more. "Utterly unlikable" goes to the character of Mu Fan, a perfectionist top music student who Xian Qing has a crush on. Played like a complete jerk rival to Du Ming Han, his eventual change of heart comes without any reason other than to move the already plodding plot along. And lastly there is Xiao Qing, played by actress Liu Yifei, who feels like a blank slate. Where the other actors ham it up to the max actress YiFei does not even seem to be trying, rendering the character of Xiao Qing an expressionless bore.
But perhaps the greatest flaw is the flawless main character himself. He is a "Mary Sue", perfect in every way. He's got the looks, the cash, the charisma, and is talented in both pop music and classical Chinese instruments. And we as the audience are supposed to like him and feel sorry for him even though it was by his own dishonest actions that put him in a spot in the first place?
Every single "twist" in the plot is easily predictable and the forced humor gets old really fast. It really is unclear whether the story is to be firmly rooted in reality or fantasy. While it gives a very satirical look into the life of a superstar, there are too many moments where suspension of disbelief has to be called into play.The story even defies logic at times, expecting the audience to believe that a person can slip out of one disguise and into another AND run from the toilet to the performing stage, all under ten seconds (unless super-speed is another talent of the main character).
There was one moment where this movie could have set itself apart. The whole subplot about "soul-mates" as something mutually exclusive of "lovers" could have been developed more fully. Perhaps exploring the different types of love that need not be just romantic love, or expounding on how a Soul Mate might be more of a metaphysical connection than a merely emotional one. Instead, after a small tease, the narrative conveniently lumps "romantic partner" and "soul-mate together" again and we are back in cliché land.
As much as Clark Kent's glasses is an absurdly thin disguise for Superman, so is Du Ming Han's disguise in this film. That same thinness translates to the plot, the characters and even the dialog. "Love In Disguise" feels like a lazy vanity affair. A self promoting tale of a musical Mary Sue that offers nothing new to the genre, not even some new laughs.
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