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If You Are The One II
If You Are The One 2

Ge You and Shu Qi try to stay together in If You Are The One 2.
Chinese: 非誠勿擾2  
Year: 2010
Director: Feng Xiaogang  
Writer: Feng Xiaogang, Wang Shuo

Ge You, Shu Qi, Yao Chen, Sun Hong-Lei, Ady An Yi-Xuan, Liao Fan, Shao Bing, Guan Xiaotong, Zhao Baogang, Zhang Xinyu, Dou Wentao, Chen Li, Tim Le, Wu Yicong, Zhang Hanyu (voice only)

The Skinny: Like the first film, If You Are The One II is smart and entertaining, but only by half. The film's second half removes the focus from the stars, plus it amps up the drama to near-dishonest levels. Worth a look if Ge You and Shu Qi are your dream couple, you dig product placement, or you love staring at ungodly luxury on the big screen. Hey, who doesn't?
by Kozo:

You asked for a sequel to Feng Xiaogang’s 2008 romance If You Are The One, right? The likelihood is that you didn't, but that's too bad because they made one anyway. The 2010 sequel If You Are The One II brings back Ge You and Shu Qi as two mismatched lovers who hooked up thanks to a personals ad, plus an extended courtship where the rich, exacting Qin Fen (Ge) tried to convince the pragmatic, wounded Smiley Liang (Shu) that he was the one for her. After a trip to Japan, plus a detour into could-be-possible tragedy, the two got together, and the audience got a smart relationship comedy with dollops of satire and a huge helping of upscale China and Japan destinations. It was dry and commercial but it worked. But was there really material left for more?

Sure, because even after you negotiate to get together you have to negotiate to stay together. That’s just what Qin Fen and Smiley do. The differences are many; he’s rich, she’s not, he’s old, she’s not, and who knows if their values are exactly the same. One might remember that they hammered out some of this in the two-plus hour original film, but no matter, they go at it here. There’s some good in that; the relationship wrangling between the two is wordy, but benefits from the established characters and especially the actors. Ge You’s dry wit is appreciable even if one doesn’t know Mandarin, and Shu Qi has aged nicely from bubbly ingénue into slightly world-weary thirtysomething. They’re still a mismatched couple, but their interplay is smart and entertaining, if still a bit dry. Kissing and hugging are not on offer here.

But who wants to see Ge You and Shu Qi making out when you can see China scenery instead? Unlike the first film, which detoured to Hokkaido, If You Are The One II stays entirely in China, and the locations it offers are tres pretty. Qin Fen lives in a luxury wood treehouse with a gorgeous view that would make the Ewoks jealous, and he takes Smiley to fashion shows, amazing hotels and restaurants with divine sounding food. At one point, Qin Fen and pal Xiangshan (Sun Honglei) attend an auction where Xiangshan drops a cool fortune on a bottle of wine before taking it to a high-class restaurant and paying extra to de-cork it there. Obviously, these guys know how to spend. As a glimpse at China’s newfound upperclass, If You Are The One II has its plusses, especially when it makes fun of them. At one point, Qin Fen throws out a comment about how the nouveau riche behave much worse than the indentured rich – a sly dig at China’s own fast-earning populace. That, plus an amusing divorce ceremony (between Sun Honglei’s and Yao Chen’s characters) show that Feng Xiaogang still has some sass left in his commercial cinema bones.

That satiric edge may be dwindling, however. Feng Xiaogang has made more waves recently for his grouchy demeanor and rampant product placement than the actual quality of his films - and If You Are The One II isn't going to reverse that trend. Predictably, the film is loaded with wall-to-wall advertisements, and even his digs at China’s nouveau riche are quickly brushed aside in favor of a visit to yet another branded upscale locale. The advertisements are excusable; this isn’t a nominally important film like Aftershock, so pushing alcohol brands and five-star hotels is no big deal. The bigger problem is the film's third act detour, which arrives with overused plot devices intended to wring expected waterworks from the audience. There's some black comedy there (the final "funeral" is inherently amusing), but more than not, the film skews towards seriousness instead of satire, with messages and platitudes squeezed between Qin Fen and Smiley’s relationship haggling.

The precipitous dip from dry comedy to only darkly funny drama is also jarring in that it gives major focus to a supporting character who, until that point, hadn't received that much screentime. Luckily, the character is played by a star so it should be fine for most audiences, but putting Ge You and Shu Qi in the backseat feels wrong, as their story is seemingly resolved as a result of someone else's. Also, the dramatic content isn't that compelling. Eventually, If You Are the One II presumes to tell us about growing old, and also about life, love and the hope for big box office. It all gets to be a bit much, especially since the overwhelming dryness of the proceedings puts the audience at too much of a distance. Feng Xiaogang is smart, he's witty and he's unafraid to induce the audience to tears. But honest, earned emotion? Not his strong suit at all.

What is his strong suit? Making money, apparently. If You Are the One has racked up so much box office already that its product-pushing, tear-jerking antics could never be considered a mistake by studio bean counters. The problem with If You Are The One II is, like most sequels, that it's worse than its predecessor and ultimately feels unnecessary. Not that the original If You Are The One was that great, but it was a witty update of a decade-old film (Chen Kuo-Fu's The Personals), and it featured a promising, as yet unseen match-up of actors. It’s great that Ge You and Shu Qi returned for another go around, but for the Feng Xiaogang faithful, that may not be such good news. Now entrenched as China's most dependable cinema cash cow, Feng Xiaogang has apparently adopted one of Hollywood's worst lessons: he's serving up more of the same simply to make more money. If busting box office is his main goal, then his next move is logical: If You Are The One 3-D. (Kozo 2010)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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