‘Women Want’ a bad knockoff

JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:21 PM ET

The first question one might ask about the production of a faithful Chinese remake of the lightweight, 10-year-old Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want, is "Why?"

It's funny enough in fits and spurts, and more amiably played by Hong Kong gangster-movie poster-boy Andy Lau than by Mel. (Although that perception may be coloured by the fact that we have a better idea these days of Mel's attitude toward women, and it isn't pretty -- would anyone rent the original anymore?)

And of course, if you consider all the Hollywood remakes of Asian films that have been released over the years, there's a bit of an imbalance to address.

But this waaay overlong, Mandarin-language remake seems more the result of the kind of marketing-mentality it professes to mock. For what it's worth, we don't see a lot of movies set in a smart-phoned, flashy, modern China. And there's a young, professional Asian demographic on both sides of the Pacific that might flock to a reliably chuckly date movie, no matter how occasionally cringeworthy.

Apparently, there's money behind this Hollywood-to-China remake impulse. So who knows what we could see next? Mandarin versions of Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl rom-coms could hardly be worse.

In any case, anyone who has seen the original with Mel and Helen Hunt (remember her?) will suffer an attack of almost-instant déjà vu, so faithfully does What Women Want follow its template. Lau is Sun Zi Gang (whose name is apparently funny in Mandarin), a glib Beijing ad exec who sails through his day hitting on every (amazing-looking) woman he meets, in coffee shops, elevators and his own office.

On this special day, though, he and all his office lackeys (including his two identical-twin assistants, who kowtow in unison) are expecting Sun to be named Executive Creative Director.

Instead, bowing to a booming increase in women's consumer spending, the company has hired a hot-shot female competitor to be Sun's boss, Li Yi-Long, played by miscast screen goddess Gong Li.

The divorced-dad/lothario meets his match and seems due to be a victim of a feminized new world when, well, it involves an electrical shock and (in a slight departure from the original) dainty little flakes of mystical "anima" (feminine spirit) that give Sun the ability to read women's minds. His inspired new mission: to use his superpower to take down his high-heeled nemesis.

I don't know why a movie this predictable should run as long as it does. A great deal of time is spent on Sun's dad, a scene-stealing geriatric opera singer (Wang Deshun). And the confused Yi-Long spends a lot of time with Peter (Russell Wong), a comically-Westernized Shanghai executive headhunter she meets on the Internet, and who passes for Sun's romantic competition when he begins thinking of Yi-Long "that way."

Bogus moment at which I dropped this movie by at least a half-star: an agonizing scene at a jazz club where Sun takes the mike and serenades Yi-Long with a tepidly-generic adult-contemporary (English) song I never want to hear again.

Next time, I'm hoping to see a better quality knock-off.


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