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  • Either Chinese pop idol Wang Lee Hom had a breath of inspiration to try to break into the film making business, or music is not bringing in as much dough as he would like. Or perhaps he was feeling bored one day and decided to make a movie about......himself.

    Wang Lee Hom writes, directs and stars in what is easily a glorified fan-fiction about himself. Lee plays Du Ming Han, pop idol extraordinaire with an over active imagination and adored by millions. Along with his loyal manager, Joan (played by actress....JOAN Chen), everyday is a routine of performances, evading the paparazzi through the use of disguises and partying at night with his band-mates. One night after giving the Press the slip, Ming's posh Van literally runs into a female music student named Song Xiao Qing. Miraculously unhurt, Xiao Qing checks her "GuZheng" string instrument for damage. This is when Du Ming Han's overactive imagination kicks in as Xiao Qing's tune conjures up images of badly CGI-ed butterflies in his head. Immediately smitten by her, though he claims he is only her music that he is in love with, Du Ming Han and his lead guitarist Wei Zhi Bai track the talented girl to her school. Donning a couple of silly disguises, they enroll in the schools music department so that Ming Han can have the pleasure of hearing Xiao Qing play once again.

    As much as Du Ming Han daydreams of flowers, butterflies and beautiful hilltops when he listens to Xian Qing's music, the entire movie is like a wishful daydream of writer/director/main actor Wang Lee Hom. The characters that populate the story are either played too over-the-top for anyone to take seriously, are utterly unlikable or generally lack a certain presence. The first flaw falls on every single side character from the school principle (who happens to be Xiao Qing's father) to even Wei Zhi Bai. They are all played for laughs basically, and nothing more. "Utterly unlikable" goes to the character of Mu Fan, a perfectionist top music student who Xian Qing has a crush on. Played like a complete jerk rival to Du Ming Han, his eventual change of heart comes without any reason other than to move the already plodding plot along. And lastly there is Xiao Qing, played by actress Liu Yifei, who feels like a blank slate. Where the other actors ham it up to the max actress YiFei does not even seem to be trying, rendering the character of Xiao Qing an expressionless bore.

    But perhaps the greatest flaw is the flawless main character himself. He is a "Mary Sue", perfect in every way. He's got the looks, the cash, the charisma, and is talented in both pop music and classical Chinese instruments. And we as the audience are supposed to like him and feel sorry for him even though it was by his own dishonest actions that put him in a spot in the first place?

    Every single "twist" in the plot is easily predictable and the forced humor gets old really fast. It really is unclear whether the story is to be firmly rooted in reality or fantasy. While it gives a very satirical look into the life of a superstar, there are too many moments where suspension of disbelief has to be called into play.The story even defies logic at times, expecting the audience to believe that a person can slip out of one disguise and into another AND run from the toilet to the performing stage, all under ten seconds (unless super-speed is another talent of the main character).

    There was one moment where this movie could have set itself apart. The whole subplot about "soul-mates" as something mutually exclusive of "lovers" could have been developed more fully. Perhaps exploring the different types of love that need not be just romantic love, or expounding on how a Soul Mate might be more of a metaphysical connection than a merely emotional one. Instead, after a small tease, the narrative conveniently lumps "romantic partner" and "soul-mate together" again and we are back in cliché land.

    As much as Clark Kent's glasses is an absurdly thin disguise for Superman, so is Du Ming Han's disguise in this film. That same thinness translates to the plot, the characters and even the dialog. "Love In Disguise" feels like a lazy vanity affair. A self promoting tale of a musical Mary Sue that offers nothing new to the genre, not even some new laughs.
  • I reckon this to be more of a pissing contest amongst the contemporary crop of male singers from Greater China, and probably an in-thing to have oneself hyphenated with credentials that go beyond singer-songwriter, to include actor-writer-director. After all, Jay Chou has done it, so why not Wang Lee-Hom, since he too has gotten his feet wet and caught the acting bug with Lust, Caution and Little Big Soldier?

    And it's no surprise too that Wang's directorial effort happens to be a story that deals with music, just like Chou's, where they play self-masturbatory type characters who are equally multi-talented with musical instruments, and can serenade a girl or two. And to make them look good as directors at the helm of their debut projects, why not go to Lee Pin Bing to lens the film as well, since the cinematographer has a slew of proved works ranging from the arty to the mass appeal films, and yes, both Secret and Love in Disguise looks great.

    But then the storyline here is more of the usual cliché formula, which reads having the director/actor play a larger than life parody of himself in a leading role. Wang plays Du Ming- Han, or DMH as it's more hip to be known that way, a highly successful pop idol managed by the shrewd manager Joan (Joan Chen, Wang's co-star in Lust, Caution). En route to a party their limo-van knocks down a pretty gu-zheng playing lass Song Xiao Qing (Liu Yifei), and smitten by the aural orgasm she gives him when she teases with her instrument, DMH ropes in lead guitarist and henchman WZB (Chen Han Dian... seriously at this point I was waiting for CCB to turn up) to go undercover in disguise (hence the title) and enroll into the same Chinese orchestra school Xiao Qing is in, so that he can once again relive that orgasmic pleasure (talk about addiction)!

    Which makes him see butterflies and stars, enough to inspire him to write a new song. But that's something for the final act. Instead, he has to grapple with snooty senior classical music students such as Mufan (Qiao Zhenyu) who lambasts manufactured pop idols like DMH, and worse, to know that the object of his desire/inspiration turns out to be infatuated with Mufan. Even then, DMH himself thinks Xiao Qing is just his aural soulmate meant to stimulate his senses, and nothing more, until the inevitable flying of sparks, where what's love gets to be quite messy in its revelation, before a climax that ended up with Song Qing being wet from head to toe. I kid you not.

    As with all stories about disguises and secret identities, there is bound to be a scene where the two personas have to meet at a single venue, and it's no surprise that a rookie like Lee- Hom will opt for the same, having this scene played out purely for laughs. You may think I am making fun of his story, but fair enough, there were some nice touches from animation to comedy that the best were reserved to scenes where the director/actor goes into self- deprecating mode, showing he's not shy to laugh at himself, and the crazy world he lives in, where every move he makes is subject to scrutiny by his manager, fans and the media. Perhaps this film served as a pressure cooker release for him to let out some steam.

    Liu Yifei on the other hand had scenes crafted for her to reprise her look and feel for the Little Dragon Girl role from television, and with films like The Forbidden Kingdom, this marks one of the first few forays she's taking to make the leap to the big screen. She may lack behind other contemporaries from the Mainland like Zhang Jingchu or Xu Jinglei, but I'm hedging my bets that she'll grow from strength to strength and we should see a more active filmography soon enough. Should anyone think of remaking A Chinese Ghost Story, she'll be an automatic shoo-in as Xiao Qian.

    Love in Disguise isn't as bad as what others may have made it out to be the disaster it is not. Despite its formula, it still has enough to market itself as a romantic comedy suitable as a safe option for dating couples. And of course Wang Lee-Hom fans who should be making a beeline to support their idol's latest effort on celluloid both as an actor and more importantly, directing a film that's an exaggerated mirror of his idol lifestyle. Wonder if they see themselves amongst the faceless crowd that the singer don't really give two hoots about.
  • TAIWAN pretty boy Wang LeeHom should stick to singing, dancing, making records or whatever he does best - but not directing films. I came to this conclusion just 10 minutes into "Love In Disguise", a right royal mess of a love story in which he plays a guy almost like himself. Even a veteran film-maker like Joan Chen could do nothing to salvage this wreck of a movie.

    The film deals with heart-throb pop singer Du Ming-Han (Wang LeeHom) who lives the lonely existence of the pop idol, always in the limelight and under the scrutiny of the media and his legions of fans. His manager Joan Chen (playing herself?) tries to protect him being mobbed but DMH has a habit of disguising himself to escape from his pursuers.

    When his vehicle accidentally knocks into music student (Crystal Liu as Song Xiao Qing), DMH envisions "exotic music and butterflies" and decides that she is his 'soul-mate'. Abetted by his friend and band member Wei Zhi Bo (Chen Han Dian), the duo masquerade as country bumpkins (what were they thinking?) and enroll at the Far East Music Academy where Xiao Qing is learning Chinese traditional music.

    Talking about disguises, it would take a complete idiot not to see through the silly wig and spectacles that DMH wears to play the rural student. And how else do I loathe this flick? Let me count the ways: (i) The acting, as directed by Wang, is way below normal Taiwan/Hong Kong comedy standards. Everyone in the cast seems to be hamming it up, including Ms Joan Chen herself, and some even raised my goose-pimples! (ii) The plot, script and dialog suck big time. This kind of love story has been told throughout the history of moving pictures and here no one bothered to tweak it up a bit. (iii) Throughout the film, we get the feel of an amateurish effort - almost like putting up a school musical. (iv) I can go on but that would be overkill.

    On the plus side, we have some agreeable music written by Wang himself. For such mercies, I am indeed thankful. - LIM CHANG MOH (limchangmoh.blogspot.com)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie is pretty awful. It's like someone watched way too many Asian dramas and tried to make a movie that goes in a typical Asian drama direction. With a running time of slightly over a hour and a half. Everything is just so darn predictable, generic and cliché. The lead actor who is also the director of this movie. Is likable and it does have one or two cute moments. Plus it has Crystal Liu Yifei as the lead actress. But it mostly only focuses in on the lead actor and is just so darn boring. This movie overall is just barely bearable. The development and build up is so poorly done, I just didn't care what happens next. There is simply hardly any chemistry between the two lead characters. Plus nothing about this movie is believable and just comes off overly cheesy and silly. Yes, movies doesn't necessarily have to be believable to be good. But this one takes it to another level for even a comedic romance movie. I can see why this movie might have been a slight hit in China. But it's just almost everything wrong with romance movies, even when it comes to teenage comedic romance movies. The acting is bad and bland, even laughable for all the wrong reasons. You know those fictional fantasy romance stuff youngsters write up for fun? Well picture it in a movie form, except way way way more generic, cliché, predictable and boring and that sums up this movie. Also the modern pop music is mostly awful in this. Wang LeeHom who is the director and lead actor for this movie. Just seemed like one of those pretty boys that blog on Youtube. Slightly reminded me of a Chinese version of Dev Patel in this.

    2.8/10
  • I found the movie to be funny and cute. I am a fan of Lee Hom. I love the soundtrack in this movie. I am also a big fan of Chinese instruments and it's awesome that Lee Hom inquired that in his movie. Lee Hom portrayed Chinese instruments in this movie so superbly. Also I've never seen this humor side of Lee Hom before too and it's good to see that. But I have to say that he did add too many fantasy humor moments of him daydreaming away in this movie. I think he went a little over-board on that. Since he portrayed himself as a singer in this movie, he did do a lot of music in this movie (which I love), so I wasn't sure what I was watching or feeling about this movie. Was it music or really Love in Disguise? In my opinion, the music seems to overpower the movie more than the love relationship between the main characters. Like with the confrontation of the two main characters at the fan signing, I wanted to feel that sadness and pain of watching that part when Lee Hom was sad, but it wasn't as strong as how I felt about the music. Maybe he should've have titled it something else, like "Music to your Soul" or "For the Love of Music" or somewhere along that line. But to title it "Love in Disguise" kind'of made it to what it was but really wasn't either. In the movie, I would have liked it if he was able to target the relationship between him and the main girl more deeply just as he did with the songs/music in the movie. And not just the two main characters, but also build some story or feelings for the other characters in the movie too would've been nice. Well not too much feelings or storyline, but enough to at least know that they too were in the movie instead of looking like extras. If he was able to balance both music and the realtionship with the characters out evenly, I think it would have been great.

    Overall the movie was fun to watch. Lee Hom did okay on his first movie he produced and directed. Maybe his next movie will be an improvement. Maybe he will try something new or a different genre. But whatever it is, Lee Hom will do his best.
  • This movie is Lee Hom's first debut as a director of his romantic Comedy 'Love in Disguise.' Unfortunately, along with his other films, his acting leaves much to be desired. This movie has very cold humor, no character development, no climax, unnecessarily melodramatic and the storyline is narcissistic in nature. The connection of scenes is also poor.

    As a singer, Lee Hom is dedicated to his goal of revolutionizing Chinese music. He incessantly rejects the gossip engine of the media and secludes himself to the creation of unique music and infusing genres. I think an understanding of his singing helps recognize his deficiencies as an actor.

    One of his greatest weaknesses in his singing is his own natural vocal range. He peaks into head voice too early, which limits the genres that he can successfully create as opposed to a singer like 'Se7en' who in his tenor range has a mixed voice that peaks much later than Lee Hom.

    This explains his choice of music genre and preference for Jazz. Most of his songs that he sings 'comfortably' are in the Soprano range. His live performances of some of his more popular songs are sung in a higher range, above what he can consistently produce as evidenced by his poor execution in live performances which he likes to cover up by asking the audience to sing.

    This can be further demonstrated when we look at his musical influences 'Stevie Wonder' and how he failed to capture the essence of Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' in his cover tribute which essentially drained the life out of what is an iconically an energy driven song. Being of a lower vocal range would not generally be a problem with songs based in other languages, but with Chinese music, being able to sing as a higher range while maintaining the richness of a mixed voice is often categorized as good singing. Lee Hom suffers from his own vocal deficiencies but is able to make up for them by composing unique and functional music, as well as various vocal tricks which he uses in live performances to hide his inadequacy in hitting high notes. Much of the techniques he used are borrowed from speech level singing and the album before this tried to demonstrate them in songs such as 'Wan Quan Mei you ren he li you li ni' amongst many others. The effect was the creation of a very audibly unsatisfying listening experience covered only by the fact it has unique and had never been done before. One could argue this was so not only because many singers from Taiwan had not been trained in speech level singing but also because even if they had, no one would be foolish enough to that showcasing in a song which really shined only as an experiment, at some parts it sounded like I was listening to a 'learn how to sing tape.' Unfortunately as a pop star with very few people to relate to, Lee Hom becomes the victim of self-delusion. This is of course exacerbated by the Taiwanese media circle which would surround him with nothing but praise and with people who are afraid to give such open and honest advice with the fear of offending someone with such an outstanding musical career. To some extent, i think Lee Hom recognizes his own vocal limitations and is trying to improve his singing using lessons by Seth Riggs. He also innately refuses to recognize the talent of someone like Jay Chou, whose success lies quite closely with his ability to compose 'mainstream' songs and taking advantage of his tenor voice. I believe Lee Hom is trying to challenge the music industry to accept non-mainstream music. He does this in his latest albums by using techniques that use his vocals as an instrument rather in the traditional sense of a medium to express words in a typical high voice that traditionally makes up most Mandopop songs. The result however is not what you would expect, and as a fan, I find it quite difficult to enjoy some of the songs on his last album where he really does not focus on what sounds pleasing to his audience in his attempt to experiment with new sounds. It's no wonder why he emphasizes continually to the media that he is not a 'you zi ou xiang' but he wants to be recognized as someone with 'shi li'. Unfortunately, no new music arrangement will earn him that title unless the rest of his songs from now on are as high as Wei Yi, Forever Love and Kiss Goodbye, the very ballads that Lee Hom is resisting not to make by choosing not to cave into mainstream pressure. It's the same stubbornness that prevents Lee Hom from feeding the Taiwan Media in any way, even for public publicity. As a singer or classical musician like Yundi Li, maybe it doesn't matter but as a pop singer, a certain idol profile is required and Lee Hom should give away a little of his personal life to the media and to make his fans happy. He is not at the level yet, like Michael Jackson, where he can make his music do the talking, no matter how much he wants it to be the case.

    As an extremely handsome individual, I expected Wang to have had quite a few invitations to star in movise. The reason why he hasn't is his poor acting, as evidenced in the range of movies that he has been involved in such as 'China Strike Force', 'The Avenging Fist' and 'Moonchild', amongst, those that I have watched. The lack of quality in his acting in these cases has been so bad that it has completely overshadowed the benefit of having a 'successful pop idol' bringing his fan base into a movie; this is not an easy thing to accomplish.