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Love in Space

Love in Space     Love in Space

(left) Guey Lun-Mei and Eason Chan, and (right) Jing Boran and Angelababy in Love in Space.

Chinese: 全球热恋  
Year: 2011
Director: Wing Shya, Tony Chan Kwok-Fai
Producer: Fruit Chan Gor
Writer: Tony Chan Kwok-Fai, Lucretia Ho
Cast: Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Rene Liu, Xu Fan, Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Guey Lun-Mei, Angelababy, Jing Boran, Liu Jinshan, Chapman To Man-Chat, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui
The Skinny: As fluffy, sweet and unhealthy as marshmallow. Love in Space is acceptable commercial stuff with fine actors and fun performances - but one third of the film takes place in space and it totally blows. Otherwise this is fun for dates and good for families.
by Kozo:
It worked the first time, so why not do it again…in space? Maybe that’s what Wing Shya and Tony Chan were thinking when they created Love in Space, the follow-up to their fun, flimsy and financially successful Hot Summer Days. An all-star Lunar New Year film about a bunch of people lusting for love one sweltering summer, Hot Summer Days was Fox International's first foray into the China market and managed to please thanks to its easily-digestible sentiment, abundant star power and ace art direction. Love in Space follows nearly the same formula, but instead of a sweaty summer, the filmmakers use family and the film's Mid-Autumn Festival release date to create character connections. The space angle is actually a clever idea given the cultural legend behind Mid-Autumn Festival. But clever ideas and clever execution are not always synonymous.

Love in Space follows three single sisters whose experiences with love have left them wanting. The eldest Rose (Rene Liu) is an astronaut orbiting Earth in a space station along with old flame Michael (Aaron Kwok). The two are tasked with a vague mission, but instead spend valuable government time bickering over their decade-old break-up. Middle sister Lily (Guey Lun-Mei) lives in Australia and is an OCD-suffering clean freak. She meets cute with Johnny (Eason Chan), who may be her perfect match. However, he's a garbage collector. Youngest Peony (Angelababy) has just been crowned China's worst actress, and she resolves to do research for her next role by working incognito as a lowly waitress. While in her new real-life role, she meets penniless writer Wen Feng (Jing Boran), but is love possible considering her deception and her management company’s draconian contractual rules? Watching over all the girls is their mother Mary (Xu Fan), who offers maternal missives while receiving romantic signals sent by family driver Uncle Hua (Liu Jinshan). Write the rest of the movie yourself – it's not hard.

Actually, maybe writing the rest is hard – that is, if you're planning on making it good or at least marginally exceptional. Love in Space is cut from the same cloth as many star-packed Hollywood rom-coms, i.e. it banks on its actors’ attractiveness while skimping on stuff like an original story, surprising events or developed emotions. Love in Space features sitcom set-ups, too-rushed romances and more exposition than action – though with three (or maybe three-and-a-half) romances to follow it does need some shortcuts. Wing Shya and Tony Chan handle matters only competently; their direction is clichéd and hesitant, with obvious music choices (The Blue Danube Waltz in space? Again?) and a loose structure. The film follows each couple in turn, rarely lingering on one too long, and that keeps things moving briskly if not coherently. One wonders if Shya and Chan could keep a film about a single couple from getting stale or boring, but since they haven’t attempted that yet, wondering is all we’ve got.

None of the stories impress, but the performers polish Lucretia Ho and Tony Chan’s dingy script to a solid shine. Eason Chan gives his garbage collector character grounded personality and a winning integrity, and Guey Lun-Mei overacts in adorable, sometimes shrill rom-com heroine fashion. Angelababy suffers when put through the more clichéd paces, but her screen presence still charms, and is refreshing in its lack of pretension. Her pairing with Jing Boran is a carryover from Hot Summer Days, and the two share a comfortable chemistry. Xu Fan plays way over her age as the girls’ mother and her stagey performance, characterized by maternal mannerisms and middle-aged affectations, feels appropriate. Also, when called upon to deliver the cheesy platitudes and schmaltzy repeated lines, the actors frequently nail the emotion. Their material is unchallenging and commercial, but there’s a reason why audiences respond to it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

However, when the film enters outer space, all bets are off. The terrestrial stuff is standard and largely agreeable, but what happens in orbit veers from silly to completely laughable. For one thing, Rose and Michael’s mission is deliberately undefined. Their story wouldn’t be so bad if they were just flirting on the job, but their mission crises are integral to the plot – and after a while, you can see the actors are yelling and emoting about completely nonsensical gibberish. Rene Liu is a fine actress, but when her waterworks follow laughable aerospace technobabble, it’s hard to be involved. Also, Aaron Kwok botches his character; he’s supposedly a charming rogue, but his pretentious expressions and smarmy delivery make him more creepy than endearing. Add to that the terrible anti-gravity effects – which include clearly hanging tubes and the actors swaying on invisible wires – and the space stuff completely takes the audience out of the film. It’s practically a relief whenever the film cuts away from its space story to return to Earth. In fact, the space stuff may actually enhance the prosaic Earth stuff by comparison.

The clever portion of the space idea is that it represents a couple reuniting in space, and on the moon, no less. These details tie into the various legends surrounding Mid-Autumn Festival, in which a Heavenly couple meet only once a year when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. The Festival is also a time for families to reunite, so seeing the entire Huang family – mom, the girls and their new guys – enjoying a meal together on the autumnal equinox strikes a particular emotional chord. Sadly, either through plot convenience or actor scheduling, Kwok and Liu don’t join the rest of the actors, but that’s fine because they were the weakest part of the film anyway. Otherwise, the film is solid fluff, with Wing Shya and Tony Chan delivering a handsome, professional-looking production that’s art-directed to the nonsensical but pleasing nines. Silly all-star rom-coms will always have a place in popular cinema, and with that in mind it’s easy to enjoy, if not completely appreciate Love in Space. (Kozo, 2011)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
20th Century Fox
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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image credit: Fox International Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen