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Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2

Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2     Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2

(left) Miriam Yeung and Louis Koo, and (right) Gao Yuanyuan and Vic Chou in Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2.

Chinese: 單身男女2
Year: 2014  
Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Producer: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai, Ryker Chan, Yu Xi
Cast: Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Gao Yuanyuan, Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah, Vic Chou, Daniel Wu, Lam Suet, Lo Hoi-Pang, Connie Man Hoi-Ling
The Skinny: It’s got issues, but Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 is a creative and energetic romcom from the Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai team that demonstrates many of their strengths as filmmakers. Naturally, the great-looking cast deserves credit too. Still unlikely to convert To’s genre fans to his usually more financially-successful populist works.
by Kozo:

The rare sequel to a Johnnie To romantic comedy, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 both delights and confounds. It makes sense that To and partner-in-crime Wai Ka-Fai would OK a follow-up since Don’t Go Breaking My Heart made beaucoup China bucks, but there are some nagging problems. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart ended with Cheng Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan) choosing stalwart architect Fang Qihong (Daniel Wu) over dreamy ladykiller Cheung Shen-Ran (Louis Koo), ending an epic battle of gorgeous men who fell all over themselves to impress a single woman with absurdly romantic gestures. By making a sequel, the filmmakers risk overturning the original’s satisfying ending (a potential dealbreaker for some fans) or simply reaffirming what already was (which would be boring). Cynically, one might also call this a transparent cash grab. Can we really count on the ToWai team to make this about more than crass commercialism? To the surprise of absolutely no one: Yes, we can! There’s some wear and tear but Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 ranks high for dizzy romcom fluff.

The film doesn’t start smoothly, opening with an onslaught of choppy meet-ups and quick coincidences. It’s been a year since Qihong outfoxed Chen-Ran and now Zixin is prepping for her wedding in a Hong Kong bridal shop. Her brother Paul (Vic Chou) assists her, but sees and is instantly infatuated by “Queen of Stocks” Yang Yang-Yang (Miriam Yeung), who’s having trouble parking her Ferrari. He wants to help but it’s too late – Yang-Yang catches the eye of the passing Chen-Ran, who parks her car and sweeps her off her feet. Later, Zixin randomly meets Yang-Yang and brazenly asks to work for her, and after a fashion she gets her wish. Only then does Zixin realize that Yang-Yang’s new steady is her tanned former BF. Meanwhile, Chen-Ran is back to his tomcatting ways, and brushes off Yang-Yang for a quickie, allowing Paul to make his move on the lonely Yang-Yang with an impromptu seafood dinner. Taking it all in from the sidelines, Zixin regularly delivers updates via Skype to Qihong, who’s working in Suzhou.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 sputters while setting up its character dynamics, but afterwards it reaches an entertaining high gear. Chen-Ran is part of a new love triangle between him, Yang-Yang and Paul, with Zixin peering in from afar while desperately trying to avoid Chen-Ran. However, Chen-Ran’s pull is just too great, and once Zixin enters his orbit, the love triangle becomes a pentagram. Aiding this dynamic are countless cases of misunderstanding and mistaken identity – run-of-the-mill stuff for romcoms – but the ToWai team handles these generic elements with delightful energy. There’s a screwball breathlessness to how To paces his set pieces, especially one where Chen-Ran entertains five women separately while having his subordinates (including the returning Lam Suet) run interference. Meanwhile, Yang-Yang is about to visit and Zixin is spying on everything from the building across the street. Besides being a key moment, the scene is a callback to one of the original film’s memorable set-ups – having romantic parties communicating through their respective office windows across the street from each another.

Flirtation via office windows was a big thing in Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, and it isn’t the only detail the filmmakers bring back. Chen-Ran’s magic tricks, Post-It art and love of rock climbing return, usually to entertaining or even poignant effect. Fans of the original will appreciate these repeated details but they provide more than just superficial connection. In particular, certain details are used to deftly contrast Yang-Yang with Zixin. For example, whereas Chen-Ran’s supply of condoms in his car glove box was cause for problems with Zixin (she didn’t like it that he was prepared for any sexual encounters), Yang-Yang willingly accepts it. Also, when confronted with Chen-Ran’s infidelity, Yang-Yang looks the other way in a somewhat self-abased fashion, rather than denounce Chen-Ran as Zixin would have. The details are offered by the filmmakers to help develop the characters, but without extra exposition, it’s the viewers who make the connections, essentially aiding ToWai’s storytelling.

There’s an evident articulation and planning to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 that’s worth noting. The film has plentiful minutiae, including Genie, an octopus that Paul and Yang-Yang steal from a seafood restaurant. Genie’s existence mirrors that of Qihong’s pet frog in the first film, but he actually has a function that neatly complements the film’s later plot twists – though one may not notice if they’re not paying close attention. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 rewards eagle-eyed viewers with its depth of detail, and helps to make up for its rougher patches, such as the contrived opening and especially its ending, which may piss off fans who thought the first film ended perfectly. The denouement is interminably stretched out, and also sets up the potential for another sequel, presumably to reward the remaining male in the cast who’s not sauntering off with a female counterpart. Because three guys plus two girls equals one Baxter.

The characters are largely made enjoyable by the personalities of the well-groomed cast. Two actors coast off the previous film – Daniel Wu is solid in limited screentime, while Gao Yuanyuan is less compelling in that she’s more witness than participant to the shenanigans. The new characters ably compensate. Despite being a “Mistress of the Universe” Yang-Yang is a less idealized character than Zixin, and comes off less like a romcom heroine than simply a regular woman weighing her options pragmatically. Miriam Yeung makes her relatable and affecting while Vic Chou is charismatic as the “Best Man Ever” female fantasy. The MVP of the whole affair is clearly Louis Koo, who’s remarkably good at playing gleeful rascals and lovelorn dopes. Sure, he sleeps around and misleads his girlfriends, but when he’s sorry he hangs his head like a puppy dog and seems genuinely sincere. Chen-Ran is an entertaining romcom hero and Koo makes him charismatic and sympathetic – though really, you’d never want to know him in real life.

The charms of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 may be a bit meta for some audiences, as it’s more appreciable for its craft than its sheer entertainment value. The film’s flaws are also somewhat magnified when compared to the superior original. The choppy opening and unsatisfying ending are issues, while its greatest merit is simply that it applies actual skill to what could be a phoned-in genre sequel. Basically, they put real effort into this movie – and you know, that should be seen as a good thing. Yeah, it’s “just a romcom” and some of the product placement is straight-on crass, but the film has smarts and style, and it’s still Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai at the helm. The genre fan may feel unserved (The common refrain is: “But Johnnie To should be making crime films!”) but let’s agree to disagree. These guys bring the goods to every genre they touch, so spreading the love around is A-OK. I’d say the same for Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2. (Kozo, 11/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Mega Star (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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