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The Rooftop
Rest on Your Shoulder

Jay Chou and Li Xin'ai find love on The Rooftop.
Chinese: 天台  
Year: 2013  
Director: Jay Chou  
  Producer: Jimmy Huang, Liu Genghong
  Writer: Jay Chou

Jay Chou, Li Xin'ai, Alan Kuo, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Xu Fan, Devon Song, Huang Jun-Lang, Huang Huai-Chen, Darren Chiu, Kenny Bee, Wang Xueqi, Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, David Chiang, Fu Yiwei, Ken Lin, Lin Yu-Chih, Liu Genghong

  The Skinny: Jay Chou's second directorial effort is a populist musical comedy featuring martial arts and a bad Jay Chou hairstyle. However, the lack of chemistry between the trademark-wooden Chou and newcomer Lin Xin'ai renders the film's biggest storyline ineffective. A missed opportunity that's not without its charms.
by Kozo:

If at first you kind of succeed, trying again sounds like a pretty good idea. Or something. After the effective but completely illogical romantic fantasy Secret, Jay Chou returns to the director’s chair for his second film The Rooftop, a musical comedy that demonstrates an admirable love for Taiwan-style populist entertainment. The film also provides the expected share of Jay Chou tunes and even takes a few risks. Unfortunately, not all those risks pay off. Chou stars as Wax, martial arts expert and would-be greaser living in the fictional Taiwan town of Galilee. Wax works at a Chinese medicine store run by Dr. Bo (Eric Tsang) – though Wax mostly does little besides hang out with his best buds, cruise the streets, and maintain his towering pompadour. His true love, besides his aforementioned high-coiffed hair, is the Rooftop, a bohemian commune located on the (duh) rooftops, where lower class neighbors eat, sing, banter and live together happily.

Conflict arrives when Wax meets his crush, actress Starling (newcomer Li Xin’ai), whose oversized face gazes upon Wax and the Rooftop from a billboard every day. In a convoluted set-up that could only happen in the movies, Wax goes to work with pal Tempura (Alan Kuo) for powerful businessman and obvious triad boss Rango (Wang Xueqi). Wax and Tempura are supposed to “collect rent” from local businesses (though what they really appear to be doing is taking protection money), and after some rent collecting shenanigans Wax runs into Starling and lands a job working as a stunt double on her film. Despite having an overbearing suitor in douchebag actor William (Darren Chiu), Starling takes a shine to Wax and his Rooftop buds, leading to the possibility of a Notting Hill romance set to Jay Chou’s top-notch ballads. Alas, Starling’s father (Kenny Bee) owes William’s company a sizable debt, so she may stay perpetually out of Wax’s reach.

The Rooftop is intended to be a fun audience picture, i.e., a knowing, colorful and not-to-be-taken-seriously romp that delivers what average people want from the movies: action, comedy, romance, cool heroes and dastardly villains. Jay Chou actually succeeds in getting most of those elements onto the screen, and it’s hard to be that critical about a film that combines musical numbers with kung-fu and a bad Jay Chou hairstyle. The overdone cameos, loud banter, and gaudy costumes and art direction are fine if one goes in expecting them. The colorful excess helps to prop up the limp story, which is slow to start before revving up into an illogical and melodramatic mess. The musical portions could be improved – direction is sometimes lackluster, and the distribution of songs across the film is uneven. The rampant silliness and ridiculously evil bad guy also take their toll. But what the hell, it’s The Rooftop! Just roll with the wackiness, and the numerous flaws should be forgiveable.

Except when they’re not. Chou took a big risk casting a new actress as his partner, and unfortunately that risk doesn’t pay off. Li Xin’ai succeeds only at being photogenic, and lacks chemistry with Jay Chou, who – let’s face it – is not much of an actor either. Chou has always been a tough sell as a romantic lead, and the only reason that Secret worked is because he had Guey Lun-Mei as his screen partner. Chou simply doesn’t have that level of help on The Rooftop, and since so much of the film is dependent on actually caring if Wax and Starling hook up – well, the writing is pretty much on the wall. There are still small joys in The Rooftop – costar Alan Kuo is funny, Galilee is the perfect fake little town, one cameo at the end delights in its meta-ness – but the lack of a compelling romance dooms the film to far less than it could have been. Jay Chou should try directing again, though. As they say, the third time’s the charm. (Kozo, 8/2013)

  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 6.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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