Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy New Year: All’s Well, Ends Well 2012

It’s Donnie Yen as you’ve never seen him before: singing power ballads. His character might be stuck in the 1980’s, but he can still find love in Chan Hing-ka and Amy Chin’s All’s Well, Ends Well 2012 (trailer here), the sixth film of the popular HK rom-com series, which opens today in New York.

A frustrated divorcee creates a Craig’s List to make men useful. The payment for miscellaneous services rendered is supposed to be a simple hug, but things get much more complicated for these couples. Julie Sun, an edgy photographer, hires construction foreman Kin Holland to serve as her nude model, while Hugo, the shaggy romance novelist, agrees to explain love to Charmine, a beautiful but blind dancer. Chelsia, a former teen idol, hires would-be hair band rocker Carl Tam to pretend to be her husband at a difficult reunion dinner. Meanwhile, Richard the hardball divorce attorney acts as a surrogate father for Cecilia, an orphaned heiress, as she evaluates prospective suitors.

Naturally, Holland falls for Sun hard, but her not so much. Hugo falls for Charmine too, but he is painfully stupid when it comes to dealing with her blindness. Of course, once she gets the cornea transplant, he totally freaks. Tam just wants to rock and rebuild Chelsia’s confidence, while the attorney finally acts like the father to Cecilia that his estranged daughter has never allowed him to be.

With a title like “All’s Well, Ends Well,” audiences should have a pretty good idea where it is all headed. A thematic series, several cast-members have already found love in previous installments. As an anthology film (whose characters only overlap in the final scene), Well 2012 is not surprisingly somewhat uneven. The best arc features co-producer and Well regular Raymond Wong appealingly co-conspiring with Yang Mi’s poor little rich girl. At the other end of spectrum, it is a little cringy to see veterans like Donnie Yen and Sandra Ng belting out their cheesy songs as Tam and Chelsia

The other two couples fall somewhere in the middle, freely mixing broad comedy with romantic angst. In fact, Ip Man fans who can handle Yen’s over-the-hill rocker should rather enjoy seeing Lynn Xiong (billed as Lynn Hung when playing Ip’s wife) elevating the novelist and dancer story with her exquisitely fragile turn.

Evidently, the Well series is constantly reconfiguring its romance to comedy ratio. 2012 probably leans too far towards the latter, whereas a bit more of the former would travel better for American audiences. Still, it is a hard film to not have some affection for. The cast is quite attractive, most definitely including Yang Mi, Lynn Xiong, Kelly Chen as Sun, and Magic to Win’s Karena Ng, briefly appearing as Richard’s angry daughter. For the ladies, Louis Koo’s Holland is shirtless, a lot (you tell me how impressive that is).

Timed as a Lunar New Year release, Well 2012 is determinedly cheerful, right down to the compulsively happy closing pop song. For fans of the series, it delivers the cute. For hipsters, it shows the sporting nature of its famous cast. For those who like their cinema sugary sweet, it opens today (1/27) in New York at the AMC Empire and in San Francisco at the AMC Metreon, courtesy of China Lion Entertainment.