12 November 2014 | moviexclusive
Less likable or poignant than its predecessor, this unnecessary sequel trades Daniel Wu for Miriam Yeung and Vic Chou, and loses the one likable character in the process
Over post-it notes exchanged across the office windows of two adjacent towers in the heart of Hong Kong's financial district, Louis Koo's dashingly handsome but hopelessly philandering wealth management CEO Cheung Shen Ran pursued the pretty and vivacious financial analyst Chen Zixin. But Zixin was also simultaneously courted by the handsome architect Fang Qihong (Daniel Wu), who was dependable, faithful, committed and basically the exact opposite of Shen Ran.
Teasing their audience right to the very end, the dynamic writing- directing duo of Johnnie To and Wai Kar Fai eventually let their female protagonist pick the safer choice. It is one year later where this sequel opens that we are reunited with Shen Ran and Zixin, the latter just weeks away from her impending nuptials with Qihong. The former? Well, he's as much a flirt as before, but as we find out soon after, he is actually still very much hung up on Zixin, even going to the extent of renting the apartment which she used to stay.
Johnnie To's success in his home territory has always been with crowd-pleasing rom-coms like 'Needing Me, Needing You' and 'Love On A Diet'. This sequel, as well as its predecessor, fits in squarely in many ways – it is frothy, light-hearted, and filled with zany moments that few like To/ Kar Fai will dare to pull off and do so with aplomb. And indeed, To establishes this with a hilarious opening sequence that deserves praise in itself for being able to juggle so many characters at the same time.
There is Zixin, who is trying out her wedding dress in a bridal shop and waiting for her brother Paul (Vic Chou) to arrive. Paul is caught in a jam because Yang Yang Yang (Miriam Yeung) is terrible at parallel parking her Ferrari and has been trying to squeeze her vehicle into a tight spot along a narrow street. Yang Yang wishes for a handsome guy to offer his help – and (voila!) Shen Ran pops up by her window. It just so happens that both are in the area to look for office space for their respective companies, and when Yang Yang sees Shen Ran in the window of the opposite building, she waves excitedly to him and gestures for him to meet downstairs for coffee – but really Shen Ran is gesturing instead to another hot(ter) Eurasian girl in the same building as Yang Yang. Before that misunderstanding is sorted out downstairs, Zixin throws herself at Yang Yang and begs her for a job because the latter is apparently acclaimed as a 'Goddess of Stocks'. And before the day is over, Paul would have made Yang Yang's acquaintance in the same way Shen Ran did earlier, but Yang Yang would also have hooked up with Shen Ran.
It's a lot to keep up with, and it is firmly to To's credit that his audience remains engaged and not bewildered by the end of this flurry of happenings. Oh, and by the way, if you're wondering where Qihong is in the midst of all this, well he remains unfortunately in Suzhou on a project and sits out the Tennessee Waltz of changing partners. Yes, instead of five characters fighting for each other's attention and affections, there is really only four. Wai, who co- wrote the script with original scribe Ryker Chan and Yu Xi, chooses to let the audience favourite character, Qihong, sit out most of the movie to its own demise, because none of the ones we spend much of the time with – and that includes the French-spouting Qihong, who comes off less romantic than pretentious – are anything near endearing. On the contrary, Shen Ran, Zixin and Yang Yang are fickle and capricious, so we find it hard-pressed to root for any of them.
Short of a deeper emotional connection with any of the main characters, we are left instead to indulge in their whimsicalities – and thankfully, there are a couple of fairly entertaining sequences here. One of these highlights sees the introduction of a clairvoyant octopus named Genie (clearly influenced by the similarly gifted Paul the Octopus) which Yang Yang and Paul (haha – get it?) rescue from a seafood restaurant in Sai Kung, a self-aware narrative element meant that references Zixin's pet toad in the previous film. Another riotous sequence has Shen Ran and his loyal effeminate assistant (Lam Suet) scrambling to keep the former's bevy of flight-attendant girlfriends in separate office rooms who appear simultaneously at his company to celebrate his birthday after Hurricane Sandy grounds all U.S.-bound air traffic.
It is in that same screwball spirit that Wai wraps the shenanigans up with Shen Ran scaling the very skyscraper Qihong built for Zixin in a last-ditch attempt to declare his love for her on her wedding day itself. We won't spoil any surprise here, but suffice to say that besides Zixin, Yang Yang's own love triangle with Paul and Shen Ran also gets its resolution by the time the credits roll. Is it as poignant as the conclusion the last time round? Hardly, but like we said, this is all about the laughs and less about anything meaningful or poignant. It still is fun hanging out with such a high-powered ensemble for two hours, which is one of the pleasures that this sequel offers.
But to answer the inevitable question whether it is necessary? It's probably clear by now that it isn't, motivated less by creative instinct than by commercial imperative. Yes, it's no secret that 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' was one of To and Wai's biggest hits in recent years, not least for the star-studded cast, and this sequel makes no apologies that it is simply out to entertain, shallow and artificial as the emotions it asks us to believe in are. It is a far lesser movie than its predecessor no doubt, but those looking for a superficially pleasing outing should be satisfied.