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Call For Love
Chinese: 愛情呼叫轉移


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Mandarin Language Track
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Music Video

Year: 2007
Director: Zhang Jianya
Producer: Han Sanping, Sun Jianjun

Xu Zheng, Fan Bing-Bing, Eva Huang Shengyi, Song Jia, Ning Jing, Jiang Hongbo, Qin Hailu, Gong Beibei, Annie Yi, Qu Ying, Shen Xing, Bai Bing, Che Yongli, Liu Yiwei

The Skinny: Mainland Lunar New Year comedy is notable for the parade of pretty actresses and not much else. Not a standout film, but for cheap, undemanding commercial cinema it does the job.

by Kozo:

Wishful male fantasy is the name of the game in Call For Love. This Mainland Chinese Lunar New Year Comedy has a decent, though ultralight premise, and some of the satire manages to be clever. However, the story's development is sketchy, the production noticeably sloppy, and the final lesson trite and rather unearned. Then again, this is a Lunar Year Comedy, so lazy filmmaking is excusable as long as everything is funny - and to be fair, the film does possess a few laughs. Please note that I said "a few".

Xu Zheng (Crazy Stone) stars as Xu Lang, a white-collar worker in Beijing who realizes one evening that he's become completely disenchanted with his wife (Jiang Hongbo), and suggests that they divorce. When asked for a reason, he cites the purple sweater that she wears too often, her love of television soap operas, and the noodles that she cooks four times a week. She kicks him out posthaste, throwing his mobile phone at him for good measure. Now single and lacking a working mobile, Xu enters a repair shop where the proprietor (Liu Yiwei of Karmic Mahjong) proffers a brand new mobile with a decidedly male-friendly special feature: it allows him to meet ten different women at the touch of a button, with each one being his possible dream woman.

Immediately, Xu Lang puts his new phone to work, leading to many choice encounters with available females. Among his potential mates are a beautiful policewoman (Fan Bing-Bing), a materialistic party girl (Eva Huang), a real estate speculator (Ning Jing), plus a dog lover (Qu Ying), a business-minded CEO (Annie Inoh), and a passive-aggressive career woman (Qin Hailu) who quizzes Xu Lang with a variety of guilt-inducing psychological tests. Okay, maybe the encounters are not entirely choice, but that's the chance Xu takes with his new fantasy plot device. There are two reasons behind this parade of possible mates. One, by spending time with various types of girls, Xu Lang can learn to appreciate each and every one - as well as his ex-wife - for their personal idiosyncrasies and individual beauty. And two, having ten possible girls means plenty of face time for comely Chinese starlets. Viva commercialism!

Call For Love is obviously a manufactured multiplex filler, so attempting to qualify it for world cinema status would be fruitless and probably infuriating. This is cheap, sloppy filmmaking that doesn't even attempt to earn its nominal narrative lesson. Continuity gaffes abound; at one point, a boom mike even appears in frame. Lead actor Xu Zheng is self-effacing, but also a bit distant, and can't create a consistent character. He actually manages to seem sympathetic when he initially dumps his wife, but his later adventures with other women show no progression. It would have been better had Xu Lang changed slowly through meeting each woman, but his eventual lesson is simply handed to us when the film is due to end. Does Xu Lang find love? Maybe he does, but whether or not it comes to matter to the audience is another story entirely.

However, truly attacking Call For Love for its lack of killer cinematic quality is probably too much, as it's just minor fluff that never pretends to be that deep or telling. Director Zhang Jianya gives Beijing an attractive urban feel, and the humor is sometimes amusing in its deadpan wit. The film does offer a few clever gags, and some of the relationship issues possess a familiar exaggerated truth. Though the film doesn't earn its message, the filmmakers don't slam us over the head with it either, meaning the big lesson isn't as annoying as it could be. And, commercialism be damned, it is somewhat entertaining to watch so many attractive female stars parade through the film. Since the film's marketing is largely based on the photogenic qualities of its female cast, the filmmakers seem to have delivered on at least that superficial promise.

If a major negative could be levied at Call For Love it's that it's only mildly funny. The film draws chuckles with its satirical observations, but they're mostly just that: chuckles. Other jokes fall flat or seem self-indulgent. Call For Love is far from a gutbuster, and with that in mind, it only partially succeeds at being worthwhile. This is the point where we talk about wasted potential, and how the filmmakers never capitalize on their concept to deliver something better than just throwaway fluff. Well...the above is true, but again, this was always meant to be fluff, so good job, everybody, you succeeded at making the cinematic equivalent of a cupcake. Basically, it's not as good as a rich chocolate decadence cake, but if you have a sweet tooth, then it'll do in a pinch. In case the metaphor got lost, here's the skinny: despite its potential, Call For Love aims low, and manages to hit its inauspicious commercial target. As a reward, we shouldn't accuse the filmmakers of completely wasting our time. (Kozo 2007)

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen