I Love That Crazy Little Thing
China/Hong Kong, 2016, colour, 2.35:1, 93 mins.
Director: Zou Xian 邹佡.
Odd-couple rom-com suddenly jumps the rails an hour in and never recovers its early promise.
Beijing, the present day. Film editor (and wannabe director) Jiang Yang (Chen Weiting) is ditched by his longtime girlfriend Luo Qianqian (Jeong Su-yeon) when her wealthy boss Wang Zihao (Wang Ziqian) makes a surprise proposal. At work, Jiang Yang has a devoted but klutzy trainee, Meng Xiaoyan (Tang Yixin), whom he’s always shouting at. While finishing off work on the company’s latest film, romantic drama Love City 心城, starring Yang Mingzhe (Seo In-guk) and Wang Ruofei (Sun Yi), Meng Xiaoyan apparently makes a mistake that results in the music rights to a song by the legendary Ouyang Qi not being cleared. The film’s release is threatened, but Jiang Yang promises his boss (Ji Huanbo) that he can clear the rights in five days. Meng Xiaoyan discovers Ouyang Qi has gone to the Alashan desert, Inner Mongolia province, to visit Zhao Hua monastery, so she and Jiang Yang fly there. After travelling across the desert with the help of a rally driver (Sonam Nyima), a crazy balloonist (Mike Sui) and a film crew they bump into, they reach the monastery only to find Ouyang Qi has already left. Back in Beijing, Jiang Yang’s boss demands he sacks Meng Xiaoyan, but Jiang Yang quietly resigns instead. He then discovers his father, a fountain-pen repairer (Gao Jie), is doing a job for Ouyang Qi and has his current address – in Hawaii. Jiang Yang flies there with the repaired pen and eventually wins the confidence of Ouyang Qi (Xie Tingfeng). And then Luo Qianqian suddenly turns up.
Rarely has a film gone so suddenly off the rails in its final half-hour as I Love That Crazy Little Thing 那件疯狂的小事叫爱情. This second feature by Beijing-born production manager-turned-director Zou Xian 邹佡, 47, a graduate of New York’s Pace University, is far less portentous than her Big Apple-set romantic drama But Always 一生一世 (2014), starring Hong Kong’s Xie Tingfeng 谢霆锋 [Nicholas Tse] and China’s Gao Yuanyuan 高圆圆, and bobs along for its first hour as a predictable but amusing odd-couple rom-com set in Beijing’s movie industry and Inner Mongolia’s awesome Alashan desert. Hong Kong actor-singer Chen Weiting 陈伟霆, 31, and Mainland TV actress Tang Yixin 唐艺昕, 27, keep the film on course during the first hour simply through their light-comedy smarts; more’s the pity when the script ditches a relationship the audience has been rooting for and heads off in another direction. It’s a spectacularly inept decision that derails the movie thereon.
The film’s first hour confidently sets up the two main characters: Jiang Yang (Chen), a cocky film editor and wannabe director, and his goofy but devoted trainee Meng Xiaoyan (Tang), who are just finishing work on a corny romantic drama. (A clever main-title sequence conflates the film-within-a-film’s credits with those of the actual film.) After an apparent blunder by Meng Xiaoyan, the pair set off to Inner Mongolia to track down a reclusive songwriter and clear some urgently needed music rights. The film smoothly slides into being an odd-couple road movie, complete with offbeat characters en route and rom-com undertones throughout: he’s been ditched by his longtime girlfriend and she’s clearly an admirer of him despite being bawled out at regular intervals. The chemistry between Chen (all precious ego) and Tang (all nerdy glasses) is excellent, and it seems only a matter of time before Eros strikes and Tang emerges from behind her mop-hair, teeth braces and body padding as a beautiful butterfly.
But just as the development section is due to start, the plot takes a sudden left turn to Hawaii, wheels out a Big Name in the form of Hong Kong’s Xie as the songwriter, reintroduces the editor’s unsympathetic ex, and ditches the character of Meng Xiaoyan. It’s almost as if, halfway through shooting, Zou got a call from Xie that he was available after all, and she hastily re-wrote the script’s last 40 pages. More to the point, after investing itself emotionally in the Jiang Yang/Meng Xiaoyan relationship for the first hour, the audience is then asked to switch its interest and sympathies to an entirely new character and the unlikeable ex. The film’s hasty wrap-up and “one year later” coda are even more clumsy.
At the ripe old age of 36, Xie is barely convincing as a hippy songwriter dispensing worldly wisdom on life and relationships, but he does at least look like he’s not taking the film seriously. Though she’s cast in an impossible role, Korean American singer Jeong Su-yeon 정수연 | 郑秀妍 [Jessica Jung], 27, brings little personality to the role of the lead’s ex-girlfriend, with she and Chen simply going through the motions. In contrast, Chen has real chemistry with Tang, both showing good comic timing.
Among the supports, Taiwan’s Gao Jie 高捷 [Jack Kao] appears in a couple of scenes as Jiang Yang’s kindly father (not such a different part from his father cameo in But Always), while Hong Kong’s Zhong Xintong 钟欣潼 [Gillian Chung] has some fun cameoing as a film actress on a desert shoot – basically an in-joke with Chen, who co-starred with her in Ex 前度 (2010). Among the many other cameos are Mainland presenter He Jiong 何炅 as an MC at the wrong event, the Mainland’s resident “foreigner” Chinese-American Mike Sui 隋凯 as a crazy balloonist, and tomboy songstress Lin Wanwan 林弯弯 as a butch office colleague of Jiang Yang. Reinforcing the general script chaos, Mainland TV actress Liu Xiaoqian 刘小倩 keeps popping up in a scarcely developed sideplot as Meng Xiaoyan’s crazed elder sister. On a technical level, the film is okay. The Chinese title means “That Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. Mainland box office was a blah RMB37 million, a sixth of But Always‘ hawl.
Presented by Emperor Film & Entertainment (Beijing) (CN), Wanda Media (CN), Emperor Entertainment (HK). Produced by Dong Yang Emperor Film & TV Production (CN), Kozmo Productions (CN).
Script: Zou Xian, Gu Yu, Ying Liangpeng. Photography: Chen Lin. Editing: Li Mingwen, Liu Chi. Music: Chen Ying. Art direction: Nan Nan. Costumes: Lv Fengshan. Sound: Qi Liyong. Action: Chen Shuo. Visual effects: Yann Doray, Sai Krishna Rimmalapudi (PO VFX). Executive direction: Chen Shuo.
Cast: Chen Weiting (Jiang Yang), Tang Yixin (Meng Xiaoyan), Jeong Su-yeon [Jessica Jung] (Luo Qianqian), Xie Tingfeng [Nicholas Tse] (Ouyang Qi), Zhong Xintong [Gillian Chung] (Luolan, princess in desert film), He Jiong (press-conference MC)), Du Haitao (Du Jiacheng, Meng Xiaotang’s suitor), Li Wenling (Auntie Liu), Wang Ziqian (Wang Zihao, Luo Qianqian’s fiance/boss), Liu Xiaoqian (Meng Xiaotang, Meng Xiaoyan’s elder sister), Ji Huanbo (Li, film-company CEO), Gao Jie [Jack Kao] (Jiang Yang’s father), Sun Yi (Wang Ruofei, actress), Seo In-guk (Yang Mingzhe, actor), Sonam Nyima (rally driver in Inner Mongolia), Mike Sui (Cao Zhuangzhuang, balloonist), Gao Jun (Danny), Lin Wanwan (Huang Kun, script-department head), Yang Mingzhe (cake thrower), Jia Hao (film director), Li Jue (Jiang Yang’s new trainee), Jiang Peng (finance-company manager), Gong Weijie (desert-film director), Lorinise Tuisano (Hawakinewiwilua, Ouyang Qi’s Hawaiian maid).
Release: China, 12 Aug 2016; Hong Kong, tba.