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My Lucky Star
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by Jay Seaver

"Zhang Ziyi in a romantic action-comedy that travels."
3 stars

I've said before that making sequels to romantic comedies is a tempting but dangerous idea, but "My Lucky Star" ("Feichang Xingyun" in Mandarin) may just have hit upon the best way to follow up such a hit: It's a prequel (of sorts) to "Sophie's Revenge" that drops that movie's title character into another sort of story. No prior experience necessary, and while it's still got a bit of a calculated feel to it, it's also more fun in some ways.

As the movie opens, Sophie (Zhang Ziyi) is an aspiring comic book artist making ends meet answering phones for a travel agency in Beijing, though she tends to daydream quite a bit. She's lucky enough to win a trip to Singapore, and while her friends Lucy (Ruby Lin Xin-ru) and Lily (Yao Chen) bail on her, she does meet hunky David (Wang Lee-hom) in the parking lot of their luxury hotel. Her attempt to sneak into a party to meet him backfires, though, when it turns out he's a spy, she's just stumbled onto a plan to intercept a dangerous package, and as a result only she can open it.

It's a goofy premise that requires a lot of eye-rollingly silly activity to set up, but Sophie is just the sort of well-meaning, kind of immature spaz that the audience will absolutely believe in that sort of situation. It's surprising that Zhang Ziyi, who has spent much of her career in prestigious period pieces and never done a sequel/prequel before, has opted to return to Sophie, but then again, it is one of the few parts she's had that let her show her knack for comedy and a genuinely peculiar sense of humor. Zhang makes Sophie an enjoyably eccentric and somewhat clueless character that the audience can nevertheless get behind. She seems to be having so much fun even during the action scenes that it's infectious, and she's gotten better at slapstick, too.

She's got a fun cast to play off, too: Wang Lee-hom has just the sort of exaggerated charm as David that believably makes Sophie swoon but also marks him as a spy to the audience; it's a bit too plastic to fully communicate how he's both annoyed and charmed by Sophie at times. Dude's handsome enough to make up for it, though. He's also got a good sidekick in Ryan Zheng Kai's Bo - funny, useful, and while not quite as cool as the hero, not a liability in any way. Terri Kwan Wing, Jack Jao Kuo-hsin, and Yung Chang are more entertaining than the villains in this sort of movie usually are, while Ruby Lin Xin-ru and Yao Chen are good as Sophie's (briefly) returning gal-pals.

Also returning from Sophie's Revenge is a bright, amped-up visual style that's not just used in service of making Sophie look like a goof. Things are still zippy and colorful even in the cool, glamorous environs meant to contrast Sophie's dorkiness. Sophie's comic-book aspirations make their way into the movie with flights of fancy and animated transitions, and there's the occasional fun bit of flirting with the idea that the story is a flight of fancy on her part, even if that's not particularly explored. Though My Lucky Star is technically a prequel, it's set in the present day, if only because companies don't pay product-placement money to show off their 2007 product lines.

There's an enjoyably daffy feel to the movie, from the MacGuffin being a giant diamond and the super-spy tech being offhandedly over-the-top but not feeling ridiculous. Interestingly, one of the four writers is American as is director Dennie Gordon, which means that not only are the scenes where people speak English less cringe-inducing than usual, but the pacing and the delivery of the gags might be a little more familiar for Western audiences. It's not exactly the most smoothly put-together movie; the action is mostly well-done, although a chase that seems like it should be nifty doesn't work as well as the fights. Portions of the movie feel a bit flabby, especially when characters recap what just happened to someone else on the phone or Sophie goes on about how David is just like the hero from her comics.

Still, this sort of action/comedy/chick-flick fusion has a lot of places where it can go wrong that Zhang, Gordon, and company mostly manage to avoid. It actually goes down easy as it lacks the angry core that this sort of movie often features no matter what side of the Pacific it comes from. Mostly, though, it's fun to see Zhang Ziyi's wacky side; she doesn't break it out often enough.

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originally posted: 09/21/13 21:38:27
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USA
  20-Sep-2013 (NR)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Sep-2013


Directed by
  Dennie Gordon

Written by
  Chris Chow
  Hai Huang
  Yao Meng
  Amy Snow

Cast
  Ziyi Zhang
  Leehom Wang
  Ruby Lin
  Jack Kao
  Chen Yao
  Terri Kwan



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