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Love in Disguise
Love in Disguise

Crystal Liu Yifei and Leehom Wang in Love in Disguise.
  Chinese: 戀愛通告
Year: 2010  
Director: Leehom Wang  
  Producer: Joan Huang, Matthew Tang, Michelle Yeh
  Writer: Chen Hung-Jie, Du Xin-Yi, Leehom Wang

Leehom Wang, Crystal Liu Yifei, Joan Chen, Chen Han-Dian, Yico Zeng Yike, Qiao Zhenyu, Chen Yuen, Xie Na, Khalil Fong, Lang Zuyun

  The Skinny:

Love in Disguise is a feature-length sitcom with a familiar story and recycled gags, but director-star Leehom Wang and his cast make this a servicable time killer. Commercial fluff that will likely serve its target audience if nobody else. Of special note: the product placement, which could win an award for its painful obviousness.

by Kozo:

With Love in Disguise, Leehom Wang joins Jay Chou in the Taiwanese singer-songwriter-turned-director club. The winner so far? Probably Chou, whose Secret was overwrought but effective and very well made, plus Chou had the smarts to cast actress Guey Lun-Mei, who essentially carried his film. Wang has Liu Yifei (probably best known to western audiences for The Forbidden Kingdom) as his female lead and she does a decent job with a character that's not far removed from a flower vase role. However, Liu is most definitely the supporting player here, with Wang doing most of the heavy lifting. Does he make the grade in his first attempt as a film star and director?

Sort of. Wang does a decent job in Love in Disguise, provided that the measure is your average episode of Friends. This is a seen-it-before sitcom with standard plot devices and plot holes, including mistaken identity, quirky side characters and an extended scene where the lead runs around frantically trying to be in two places at once. Wang doesn’t challenge himself or his audience with Love in Disguise, but that’s just fine as long as he delivers his commercialism in agreeable and not-too-annoying fashion. His character certainly isn’t a stretch; Wang plays Du Ming-Han (amusingly truncated to “DMH” in the subtitles), a top-of-the-world singer-songwriter who masquerades as a poor student from the sticks to attend Shanghai-located Far East Music Academy. His reason: butterflies.

No, DMH isn’t some amateur entomologist. The butterflies aren’t real – they’re a vision he sees when he hears music student Song Xiaoqing (Liu Yifei) pluck the strings of her guzheng (a.k.a. qin, or that instrument Brigitte Lin uses to kill people in Deadful Melody). DMH thinks it must be some fate or something divine that's making him see CGI insects so he follows Xiaoqing to Far East Music Academy, dragging guitarist and pal Wei Zhi-Bai (played by Chen Han-Dian and called, obviously, "WZB" in the subs) along for a sounding board and/or comedy relief. The two dress up like country bumpkins from the fictional "Nail Town" and quickly enroll in school, with DMH taking on the fake name "Ah Duh." Before you know it, DMH and WZB are assigned to a quartet with Xiaoqing and friend Xiao Tao (Happy Girl finalist Yico Zeng), and DMH gets the chance to be her friend and confidant. Wow, that was fast.

But not unexpected, since the screenplay for Love in Disguise is pretty much the cinema equivalent of paint-by-numbers. This is tried-and-true formula that in Hollywood would star some teen singer looking to make his or her first big-screen splash. At least Wang spruces up the proceedings somewhat. Besides making his songs a focal point, Wang uses actual Chinese music – that is, with real Chinese instruments like the guzeng, the erhu, etc. – for his film’s music angle. It’s a nice cultural touch, and the film also uses Chinese folklore and mythology to give its romance another layer. These details are as deep as a kiddie pool, but the minor tweaks do help compensate for the general predictability and cheesiness on display. Since the story is super convenient and the jokes appear lifted from numerous sitcoms, Love in Disguise could use some uniqueness - and the filmmakers do give it a little.

Anyway, formula does have its charms. Some of the stock characters are amusing, like Chen Han-Dian's not-as-annoying-as-he-could-be WZB or Qiao Zhenyu as pretentious romantic rival Mufan. Both overact decently, and neither is as annoying as mainland media personality Xie Na, who turns in a screeching cameo as a fashion consultant. As DMH's motherly manager, Joan Chen overacts too, but she does it very well, acting rings around her co-stars. Liu Yifei has the prettiness and presence to hold the screen, helping to compensate for Leehom Wang’s Matthew Perry-esque comic overacting. Eventually the film puts its potential lovers at odds, with the conflicts and outcomes all familiar and expected. Really, this is unexciting stuff, but for Leehom Wang fans, it’s probably fine. What's not fine: rampant product placement, particularly for Garnier beauty products, which Wang hawks in egregiously obvious ways. Then again, this film is also an obvious product, and Wang is clearly trying to serve two groups: his fans and his backers. Well then, congratulations Leehom Wang - you made a movie for the people who pay your wages. Just don’t expect to be up for any awards. (Kozo 2010)

  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Kam & Ronson
Region 3 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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