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20 Once Again
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20 Once Again

Yang Zishan and Gua Ah-Leh in a promotional still from 20 Once Again.
AKA: Miss Granny  
Chinese: 重返20歲  
  Year: 2015  
  Director: Leste Chen

Tina Shi, Roy Hu

  Writer: Lin Xiaoge, Ren Peng

Yang Zishan, Gua Ah-Leh, Wilson Chen, Lu Han, Wang Deshun, Zhao Lixin, Li Yijuan, Yin Hang

The Skinny: Quickie remake of 2014 Korean film Miss Granny is a solid, if forgettable crowd-pleaser enhanced by an engaging star turn by Yang Zishan. Yet another polished and competent commercial film from Leste Chen.
by Kozo:
Director Leste Chen takes 2014 Korean film Miss Granny and regurgitates it for 20 Once Again, a quickie China remake that offers the same commercial pleasures of the original with only minor loss. Chen wasn’t asked to make lemonade out of lemons; Miss Granny featured a foolproof premise fit for Hollywood, about an old woman who’s de-aged to 20 years old by a Completely Unexplained Plot Device™. She runs around acting like an old woman in a young girl’s body, confuses plenty of people with her incongruous behavior and gets involved in romantic shenanigans that would be unthinkable if she looked her actual age. Unsurprisingly, everything is resolved in an implausible but poignant and totally positive fashion. Move everything to China, re-cast and you can start counting the money. Nothing deep or important happens here besides the promotion of some decent China talent and maybe added sales of a yogurt drink that the lead actress is always conspicuously drinking. One day actors will have sponsor logos tattooed onto their skin and audiences won’t bat an eye. This is progress!

So Young breakout star Yang Zishan stars as Shen Mengjun, who starts the film as an old woman played by Gua Ah-Leh. Mengjun comes under fire when her constant nagging causes family strife. She’s slotted to move to a retirement home, but Mengjun randomly visits a magical photographer who snaps her photo and suddenly she’s young and pretty and walking down the street in new clothes to the tune of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” – a Pretty Woman homage that’s lifted directly from Miss Granny. She can’t go home to her son Guobin (Zhao Lixin) and his family, so she takes the name Meng Lijun and rents a room from her old friend and admirer Li Dahai (Wang Deshun) – though he doesn’t know that Lijun is Mengjun either. Predictably, Mengjun gets involved in the life of her grandson Qianjin (Lu Han), who hires her to be the lead singer of his band after she impresses by singing Teresa Teng at the senior center. Creepily enough, sparks fly with her grandson, and soon Mengjun has record producer Mr. Tan (Wilson Chen) after her too. What’s an old lady trapped in a young girl’s body to do?

Nothing, because this silly sitcom setup will solve itself. Leste Chen’s remake is slightly less sitcom-like than director Hwang Dong-Hyuk’s original; Chen’s tone is gentler and there’s less emphasis on gags or actors mugging. That qualifies as a loss, actually, as the softening of the comedy de-emphasizes some moments that really shone in Miss Granny. For example, the scene in which Shen Mengjun realizes that her youthful body is now limber and healthy doesn’t have the same comic zing as in Miss Granny. Likewise, Yang Zishan isn’t as spontaneous or surprising with her facial expressions as original star Shim Hyun-Kyung was, and Gua Ah-Leh is simply less likable than her Miss Granny counterpart Na Moon-Hee. Without the exaggerated reactions or more pronounced comedy rhythms, the remake has less affect and feels blander overall. Leste Chen also maintains a more leisurely pace that somehow packs less content into a longer running time. Also, some characters are given less focus in the remake or are simply ignored. If anything, the original Miss Granny certainly had more personality.

The male characters are also de-emphasized. Qianjin does less than his Korean counterpart, but is portrayed fine overall, and Lu Han (Formerly of SM Entertainment’s EXO – hey, there’s another Korea connection!) earns his dreamy teen idol cred. However, Wilson Chen’s Mr. Tan is basically shafted, and his subplot is never resolved. Some closure to the flirtation between him and Mengjun would have been welcome but his character simply exits stage left and is never heard from again. Another difference: the resolution between Mengjun and her son Guobin is handled more explicitly here, and the remake does away with the original’s pandering but fun “surprise” ending. 20 Once Again actually looks and feels almost exactly like Miss Granny, so it’s weird that the few obvious changes that were made all seem so detrimental. There’s an absolute positive though: Yang Zishan’s performance. The actress is a latecomer to lead roles, but she’s got the presence, poise and not-too-blinding beauty to make 20 Once Again a fine star vehicle and agreeable, entertaining fluff. When’s the Hollywood remake? (Kozo, 1/2015)


20 Once Again actually was intended to be produced concurrently with Miss Granny, but director Leste Chen was too busy to meet the original shooting schedule. Korean entertainment giant CJ Entertainment invested in both the Korean and Chinese versions of this film.


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Deltamac (HK)
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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