Shanghai Kiss (2007)
Directed by Kern Konwiser and David Ren
Starring Kelly Hu, James Hong, Byron Mann, Ken Leung, Hayden Panettiere
Starz Home Entertainment
Alarmingly, Shanghai Kiss entices its viewers with a kind of allure and wit that we come to mildly appreciate. Over time, this charm slowly dwindles away turning into a romantic comedy that doesn’t know where exactly it wants to go next. Directors Kern Konwiser and David Ren manage to hold a firm grip on the audience’s entertainment factor while working with some pretty mediocre material that could’ve easily worked on an ABC Family two-night special event.
Labeling Shanghai Kiss a film that’s impossible to get through would be a false statement. There are some attributes that the movie excels at. Take the dialogue for instance, which can’t possibly be compared to the recent hit Juno. That film was on some intense dosing of steroids that enhanced its dialogue way over the top, whereas Shanghai Kiss is so relaxed and mild that this can well be said that it’s the actual dialogue that’s spoken between friends, something that Juno didn’t do too well at.
This works mostly because of the way our characters deliver such dialogue. Timing and emphasis is everything when it comes to this issue. Fresh from his menacing turn on the hit television show Lost, Ken Leung comes to Shanghai Kiss with the total opposite character and knack of delivering lines. He plays Liam Liu, a down to earth dude who can’t seem to get a firm grasp on his life. The situations that Konwiser and Ren stick him in are the utmost worst possible scenarios.
Coming to Los Angeles with expectations of becoming an actor, he’s floored when he can’t get a good casting call, and to top it off, he meets a sexy hyperactive chick named Adelaide Bourbon (Hayden Panettiere, who brings life to the film). How can that actually be a bad thing? She’s 16-years-old and clings on to Liam for her life. As if that doesn’t equal his already desperate situation, he’s living in a rundown apartment, can’t make amends with his father who he blames for his mother’s death, and doesn’t want to return to his father’s land of Shanghai because he’s bitter.
Being down and out, a miraculous offer falls on his door step: his aunt, whom he never knew, left him her home in Shanghai. His biggest question is: To sell or not to sell? He boards the next flight to Shanghai, leaving Adelaide all alone, promising to call her everyday. A nice plot you can say, but just like that, it happens all too quick. Lapsing time (one year later, three months later) in order to have the story feel like a long epic isn’t a good way to go. This is when the movie bites off more than it can chew and derails and conjures up exaggeration after exaggeration and the plot slowly descends into predictability.
Inadvertently, Shanghai Kiss tries to be much more than just a little romantic comedy, showcasing a display of uncertainty in itself throughout its entire story that eventually leads to its derailment. Had Konwiser and Ren just stuck to the basic formula of a routine romantic comedy, Shanghai Kiss could’ve made the pass. Instead, it veers off into an environment that’s far out of its reach. Wanting the movie to cut deep and to leave a lasting effect, it ventures off past our memories soon to be forgotten.