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Kitty Zhang in Jump

Kitty Zhang finds her groove in Jump.

Chinese: 跳出去
Year: 2009
Director: Stephen Fung Tak-Lun
Producer: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Chui Po-Chu
Writer: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Tsang Kan-Cheong, Wang Yun, Stephen Fung Tak-Lun
Action: Yuen Cheung-Yan
Cast: Kitty Zhang Yuqi, Leon Jay Williams, Yao Wen-Xue, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Fung Min-Hun, Samuel Pang King-Chi, Daniel Wu, 6 Wing, C. Kwan
The Skinny: Thin commercial fare that's enlivened by a loose, funny star turn by Kitty Zhang. Most of this stuff has been seen before, and director Stephen Fung can't raise the material to another level, but overall this is a much better film than its delayed production and bad press would suggest. Featuring Leon Jay Williams as Edison Chen.
by Kozo:
Director Stephen Fung and producer Stephen Chow team up for Jump, but can the duo overcome the film's tortuous production history? Once shot with Kitty Zhang and Edison Chen in the lead roles, Jump was delayed for over a year by the Edison Chen Sex Photo Scandal, which upset thousands of people with too much time on their hands, and sent three separate film productions into complete disarray. Unlike Sniper, which was re-edited to deemphasize Chen's role, Jump removed Chen entirely, reshooting his part with Singaporean actor/singer Leon Jay Williams. However, the switch does very little, as the subdued Williams pretty much does an Edison Chen impression in his role as Kitty Zhang's Prince Charming. As an actor, Williams is neither a step up nor down from the exiled Chen, and his scenes are easily the film's least interesting.

Thankfully, Jump is mostly Kitty Zhang. The actress picks up right where she left off after All About Women, demonstrating a comic charm that makes her a solid pick for future stardom. Zhang plays Phoenix, a peasant girl who dreams of making it in the big city. Riches and true love would be okay, but what Phoenix really wants is to hoof it like city folk, the hip hop freestyle dancers on Shanghai's bigscreen monitors immediately catching her sparkling, surgically enhanced eyes. To achieve her dream, Phoenix takes two jobs - one at a garment factory and one at a dance studio, where she cleans toilets while picking up some slick moves on the sly. There are obstacles, naturally. Besides her lack of money, the snooty city dancers look down on her dreams and background. Also, having two jobs makes her very, very tired. Still, Phoenix has heart and a resilient spirit - with some help from dreamboat CEO Ron Chan (Leon Jay Williams), she'll surely succeed at her dreams, right?

Duh, of course she will and if you believe otherwise you probably haven't seen more than three or four films. Stephen Chow wrote the original story for Jump, and his populist sensibilities are present and accounted for here. Like Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, Jump is a zero-to-hero tale with a savant-like lead whose natural skills outweigh her from-the-sticks denseness. Zhang is the ultra-talented country hick here, and she's a heck of a lot prettier than Stephen Chow's usual sardonic dopes. She may be uncouth and in need of a wax job on her upper lip, but Phoenix is alluring, charming, and never less than likable. Zhang's performance is eager to please, and consists largely of the actress giggling, but Zhang proves loose and funny, and she also projects more than comedy when required. Offscreen Zhang has some baggage (e.g., possible plastic surgery, her rumored row with Stephen Chow), but all that seems to melt away in front of the camera. Maybe that's what it's like to have star quality.

Zhang's beguiling performance helps, because otherwise Jump is a pure commercial retread possessing of only minor inspiration beyond the expected genre tropes. This is the story of how one girl struggles to compete in the big dance competition and frankly, it all comes a bit too easy for her. There are some familiar Stephen Chow-isms here - crossdressing oddballs, lovable country folk and martial arts, to name a few - but the film retreats when it could possibly do more. Chow's previous works had big moments that transcended their formulaic trappings, making his films both sublime and surprising. Jump never pulls that off, resorting to easy montages instead of risky emotional flights whenever the film needs to notch things up. Maybe the problem is that this is a dance film rather than a sports or kung-fu one, or maybe it's Stephen Fung at work. While competent, Fung has never seemed to be more than a lightweight filmmaker. He handles gags and expected emotions with easy grace, and gives his actors room to show their stuff. However, when called upon to raise things to another level - emotionally, cinematically or creatively - Fung seems to take the easy way out. Like Fung's Enter the Eagles and House of Fury, Jump is fun, fluffy, and likely forgettable.

But hey, that's okay. Jump is lightweight and throwaway, but it should entertain families and young teens, the demographic that Chow and company were likely aiming for - that is, besides China. Like every smart Hong Kong filmmaker nowadays, the makers of Jump did everything they could to ensure a China release - why else would they go through such pains to dump Edison Chen, a guarantee for a Chinese cinema ban if ever there was one? Whether or not the move succeeds, Stephen Chow and company clearly know what side their bread is buttered on, and if the movie is slight, silly and completely manufactured, all is forgiven as long as a few fun moments shine through. Jump has those moments, like a senior citizen dance-off that starts like a triad rumble, or a funny cameo from Daniel Wu, who's dubbed over by - get this - Tin Kai-Man. Most of all, Jump has Kitty Zhang. She won't and shouldn't win any awards for the film, but it's great to see a Chinese actress who can headline a commercial comedy so effortlessly. More from her in the future would certainly be welcome. (Kozo 2009)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Sony Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

image credit: Sony Pictures Asia Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen