Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lost in Thailand

I'm sure that I will discover later today that going to a movie that starts at roughly midnight twelve hours before a noon-to-noon sci-fi marathon is not, in general, the brightest of ideas, but the blizzard knocked out my chance to see it at a reasonable hour on last weekend, it was hard to find a space around the (rescheduled) sci-fi festival, and the Q&A on Friday night went long enough that getting from Somerville to Boston Common to see that midnight show just wasn't happening.

So, I guess I'm pretty lucky that Lost in Thailand stuck around for a second weekend; I don't know whether AMC did it because it did well at late-night shows all week - or did well because the folks in Chinatown were among the only ones able to easily walk to the theater last Sunday - or to make up for all the shows cancelled due to the snow. One thing I find a bit interesting is that this isn't part of their (expired?) deal with China Lion - AMC apparently cut out the middleman and booked this movie in their theaters directly from the Chinese studio. Not with a huge amount of publicity - I think I saw a poster in an odd corner a couple weeks ago - but then again, I don't know how they advertise these things in Chinatown. I'm also curious as to whether this is something the chain is going to do more of as a rule, or this is just a test or weird situation whose behind-the-scenes circumstances are unlikely to repeat. Hopefully they at least plan to book Tai Chi Hero when Well Go decides on a new release date (January 2013 apparently being just a tease).

Attendance was not impressive - I think I counted four of us in the theater - but it was an 11:50pm screening of a niche movie in its second week. No walkouts, with folks in fact actually staying through the credits! Granted, the bloopers being run alongside the credits were apparently pretty amusing to the ladies behind me who could speak Mandarin. It's also worth noting that they, being members of the target audience, seemed to find it funnier than I did, so that bodes well for it.

One thing that amused me: There was a roped-off section of the hallway near the screen, which I initially thought was strange - what sort of preview screening would they be doing Saturday at midnight? Then I looked down the hall and saw the sign for Rocky Horror, looked the other way and figured, yeah, that makes sense. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to be less of a thing than it was at Harvard Square; I remember a lot more costumes and a much longer line at that location, as well as folks bringing stuff to throw. Still, it's apparently rowdy enough that the theater doesn't just put ushers on, but folks whose shirts say "SECURITY", so maybe I just noticed a snow-related slow week.

Ren zai jiong tu zhi tai jiong (Lost in Thailand)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 16 February 2013 in AMC Boston Common #18 (first-run, 2K digital)

Comedies are tough imports; wordplay gets lost in translation and different cultures find different things odd enough to be considered funny. So, it's the big, unmistakable gags that cross borders best, but they're not usually in the best movies. Thus, something like Lost in Thailand occasionally pokes into multiplexes; it's not a particularly great Chinese comedy, but it's broad enough that Americans will at least be able to recognize the jokes.

These often come at the expense of Xu Lang (Xu Zheng), an R&D leader in a Beijing corporation whose team has developed a way to stretch petroleum much further. He needs the authority to push the program forward, which resides with company officer Zhou Yang, currently in a Thailand monastery. His rival Gao Bo (Huang Bo) also seeks this power of attorney and follows Xu to Thailand to track Zhou down. Meanwhile, Xu's wife An An (Tao Hong) is insisting he sign divorce papers within the next two days, and circumstances stick him with Wang Bao (Wang Baoqiang), an annoying, uncouth, stupid, and possibly insane tourist.

In addition to starring, Xu Zheng also produces and directs. Last seen on these shores in Pang Ho-Cheung's Love in the Buff, he's probably best known for Hao Ning's Crazy Stone and Crazy Racer, and it's the latter's style tends toward, supplying broad characters who more often than not cause their own problems and finding new ways to crank up the insanity and slapstick as the movie goes on. And while he's rather rough at times - his attempts to cut between two set-ups and make them reinforce each other don't work that well - he and co-writers Ding Ding and Shu Huan do manage to come up with some good situations, either getting a laugh from the very idea of the set-up or capping it off with a decent gag. There are a couple bantering moments toward the beginning that the subtitles capture well enough that I'm willing to bet some of the more verbal bits work fairly well if one understands Mandarin or can combine vocal delivery with written information easily.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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