China Lion // 2011 // 116 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // December 26th, 2011
I Know a Woman's Heart. (Original title.)
Chauvinistic advertising executive Zigang Sun (Andy Lau, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame) is passed over for a big promotion when his company realizes they're not capturing female consumers' attention. The new creative director, Yilong Li (Gong Li, Hannibal Rising), sends Zigang home with the task of better understanding women's needs. He gamely tests pantyhose, leg wax and the Pill on himself. Add a lightning storm and unexplained magic and Zigang wakes up with the ability to hear women's thoughts. Now he has a chance to outdo Yilong (by stealing her ideas) and reinstate himself as the top gun at the ad agency -- if only he can resist falling in love. This was a fresh idea for a light comedy in 2000 when What Women Want starred Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.
Adapted and directed by Daming Chen, the Chinese knock-off What Women Want (2011) is an uninspired retread of a story that worked best when you didn't think too much about it. I enjoyed the original movie quite a lot but haven't felt the desire to watched it again since then. The Chinese adaptation unfortunately highlights some glaring problems that undermine the whole movie. For starters, the event that gives Zigang his power to overhear women's thoughts is never explained and the use of some terrible CGI effects during that crucial scene only serves to reinforce how utterly fake and flimsy the premise on which the movie turns is. Did Zigang actually hear the thoughts of a dog speaking in Mandarin? It's the second decade of the twenty-first century and only now does a big advertising agency realize they have to appeal to female consumers?
Before his tabloid-documented fall from Hollywood superstardom, Mel Gibson was a versatile and reliable actor. His reputation as an action hero was balanced by his dramatic roles and he was willing to subvert his tough guy image in comedies. In What Women Want, Gibson was sympathetic as the alpha male pitted against his female equal. Andy Lau is a star of Chinese cinema but he's no Mel Gibson. Lau does nothing in this movie to explain his popular appeal. Mostly, he struts around looking self-satisfied and acting like a prick. Even after he attains his special talent and can hear what his subordinates really think of him, Zigang continues to make fun of a woman who's uncomfortable with her appearance, ignores a talented junior member of the firm and steals others' ideas without remorse.
The director leaves the comic possibilities presented by Zigang's new ability unrealized. In a few early scenes, Zigang alters his behavior after hearing the secret thoughts of the women around him. These scenes are executed rather poorly and the effort is almost entirely abandoned in the second half of the movie. In many of the scenes involving Zigang and Yilong, he's just finishing her sentences rather than playing off her inner dialogue in any meaningful way. Gong Li makes no impression with her contribution here. Her role consists of looking annoyed with Zigang until she inexplicably falls in love with him. In a notable alteration of the original script, when it comes time for the pair to present their new ad campaign for a brand of women's running shoes, Yilong gives the floor to Zigang.
The North American DVD release of What Women Want (2011) is mediocre. The colors are reasonably saturated but the picture is slightly too bright overall. The image is a touch soft in many scenes. The stereo audio is flat and indistinct though dialogue can be heard just fine within this unexciting mix. The disc contains no supplemental features.
Coasting on Lau's star appeal, the creators of this remake don't seem invested in the characters or story. The protagonist is a jerk and whatever lesson he is supposed to learn in the course of the movie comes off as insincere if anything at all. Made in China, this joyless imitation looks familiar on the surface but lacks the genuine article on the inside.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: China Lion
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Mandarin)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated