J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Lucky Star: Zhang Ziyi’s Sophie Returns

It is hard for a comic book artist to navigate a Sex in the City world, especially a hopeless romantic like Sophie.  At least her work provides her an outlet for her frustrations, but not a steady income.  However, Sophie will finally meet her real life international man of mystery in My Lucky Star (trailer here), Dennie Gordon’s stand-alone sequel to Sophie’s Revenge, which opens this Friday in New York.

Sophie is a talented artist, but the world’s worst travel agent.  Her day job boss tells her so, frequently.  When she wins the “My Lucky Star” sweepstakes’ luxury vacation to Singapore, her man-eating friends convince her to take the plunge.  As soon as she arrives, the clumsy knockout stumbles into the arms of David Yan, who happens to be the spitting image of her comic book super spy.  He also happens to be in the same line of work—a fact Sophie is painfully oblivious to. 

Before long, Sophie’s attempts to pursue Yan put her smack dab in the middle of a caper involving a massive stolen diamond.  It happens to be perfect for refracting a WMD laser, which is why the notorious Black Widow arms dealer is out to acquire it.  Yes, she is also hot and Yan happens to have some complicated history with her.  The indomitable Sophie will have to knuckle down if she is going to win the man of her dreams and save the world (or at least Bermuda).

The first domestic Chinese production helmed by an American woman (Gordon, best known for Joe Dirt and her DGA Award winning work on Tracey Takes On), Lucky incontrovertibly establishes Zhang Ziyi looks cute in a gondolier’s costume.  You might have suspected as much, but here’s the proof.  In fact, she has more wardrobe changes than Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars.  That is really what this film is all about: fab clothes, the picturesque opulence of Singapore and Macao, and a spot of vicarious romance. 

Sophie’s Revenge was a monster hit in China, so producer Zhang’s title character is back to feed the appetite she helped create (but viewers need not be familiar with the first film to follow the second).  However, for American audiences, it is rather ironic to see her playing a lovelorn klutz so soon after her exquisitely tragic, massively butt-kicking turn in Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster.  She is clearly versatile—and quite appealing in both very different films.

Wang Leehom, the American-born Taiwanese pop idol, is a game straight man, looking credible enough in his action sequences.  Ruby Lin and Chen Yao also return from Revenge, adding attitude and sex appeal as Sophie’s BFFs.  However, Terri Kwan sort of steals the show as the Black Widow.

Indeed, aside from an overbearing boss here and a henchman there, everyone in Lucky is outrageously good looking.  This is definitely escapist fare.  However, fans of Revenge will miss Sophie’s unapologetically macabre animated fantasies.  Gordon doubles down on the slapstick humor instead, which, ironically, does not travel as well.  Never particularly deep or memorable, My Lucky Star offers up plenty of sugary confections for the eye and a dash of plucky empowerment.  If that suits your movie going purposes, it opens this Friday (9/20) in New York at the AMC Empire, courtesy of China Lion Entertainment.

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