Manufactured music and pop star narcissism gets a well-deserved ribbing in "The Heavenly Kings," a funny and astute self-referential mockumentary from Hong Kong that out-spoofs "This Is Spinal Tap." Helmed by actor-cum-pop star Daniel Wu, pic is purportedly about Wu's real-life boy-band quartet Alive.
Manufactured music and pop star narcissism gets a well-deserved ribbing in “The Heavenly Kings,” a funny and astute self-referential mockumentary from Hong Kong that out-spoofs “This Is Spinal Tap.” Helmed by actor-cum-pop star Daniel Wu (“Divergence,” “New Police Story”), pic is purportedly about Wu’s real-life boy-band quartet Alive, but mercilessly blends fiction with fact. Major-key biz is assured throughout Chinese-language territories, though outside midnight fest slots, Western auds may prove resistant.Opening titles indicate Hong Kong’s pop scene is a mushrooming multimillion dollar industry, and pic posits that the current champions are boy-band Alive (Wu, Conroy Chan, Andrew Lin, Terence Yin). Film tracks Alive’s beginnings from inept warblers (augmented by special software) to media manipulators via internet marketing. Fake candid footage is intercut with frank real-life interviews with Canto-popsters like Miriam Yeung and Nicholas Tse. (East Asian auds will be hipper to the inside jokes.) Direction and lensing are deliberately DV rough, but expert cutting and straight-faced perfs make the pic a genuine gem for those attuned to the culture. Terry Gilliam-like animation sequences (by Ko Fai) add style and finesse.